by Lisa Van Cleef, Captain –
Major Brenda Hathorn (r) with her piano students; Major William Hathorn is on the left and composer Michael Allen Harrison stands behind the students.
About 80 people attended the Gresham, Ore. corps’ recent christening of a new baby grand piano, held during their annual piano recital.
When Corps Officer Major Brenda Hathorn took the call informing her that the corps would be receiving the piano, she was giddy. “My daughter, Brittani, heard me laughing and thought I’d lost it,” she said.
The piano donation came from the Snowman Foundation, a Portland non-profit run by composer Michael Allen Harrison, established several years ago to help provide lessons, music and instruments to young people who could otherwise not afford them.
Hathorn met Harrison at a Christmas Chamber of Commerce breakfast, and interested him in the corps’ music program. From other donations secured by Hathorn, the corps has obtained 16 new instruments, including several electronic keyboards, cornets and trombones. Two needy families even had pianos delivered to their homes!
Harrison was the special guest at this year’s recital. After the kids played everything from “Row Your Boat” to “Moonlight Sonata,” Harrison concluded the show, performing his “Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major.”
Although the children had known that Harrison would be coming to the recital, the energy level picked up when he entered the room. As he played, each new learner leaned forward, vying for the best position to see his fingers while he played.
Afterwards, Harrison advised the children to “never let your fingers move faster than your brain,” to practice every day and, most importantly, to have fun. He took time to pose for pictures with the kids and also signed their music, which Hathorn had laminated and framed for the occasion.
Hathorn has been teaching group lessons to children for two years, starting with a group of about nine that has grown steadily. She has expanded to teaching a beginners’ class for younger students and has established a Women’s Outreach Ministries group, teaching women as well.
She is planning on reaching even more families through Kids’ Fun Days, held this summer for social service clients who come to the corps’ food bank. Through these introductory days, she hopes to interest more children and parents in the music program. Harrison has said he is impressed with the program and is interested in helping more in the future.