In New Milford, Linda Wrenn shows the healing power of music
NEW MILFORD — Music is healing and can make a difference.
It was this philosophy that spurred Linda Wrenn to host a benefit concert for the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2011 that raised $10,000, and to now create Hearts in Harmony Jr., a children’s choir dedicated to spreading kindness.
The free choir is open to third- through eighth-graders in the Danbury and New Milford area. The group will meet for an hour in New Milford when needed during the summer to prepare for a possible concert, and the homecoming football game at Western Connecticut State University, Wrenn’s alma mater. Once the school year begins, the choir will meet every Monday at Western from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Wrenn had been toying with the idea since 1974, when she saw the musical “Lost Horizons” in college, which she said encouraged people to be kind. The choir idea gained traction several years ago after the benefit concert Wrenn organized was well-received and she saw the Dalai Lama speak at Western, where the university’s president announced the university would start a compassion program.
“When leaving the arena that day, I had this nagging feeling that something was about to evolve,” Wrenn said.
Anyone interested in joining the choir, or scheduling appearances can contact Wrenn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-354-3009.
Q: How did the idea for the organization come about?
A: Over most of my adult years in hearing of the many unnecessary killings of innocent people in our communities, including right in our own Sandy Hook, I knew as an educator that I had to do something with the gifts I have been blessed with, not only as a teacher, but as a musician, to do my part to guide young children to help others become more aware of those who are treated unfairly. I needed to find a way for children to make a difference, and what better way than through their actions and through song?
So it all came together right after the new year when I approached the Alumni Association with my vision of Hearts in Harmony Jr., and they immediately agreed to support me and to provide a place for me to rehearse with the children on the main campus in White Hall. I was so stunned and excited to be once again returning to my alma mater, not as a student, but now to guide youngsters to become leaders of the community in a kind and compassionate way, as I believe WCSU had helped mold me over 40 years ago. The timing was right for me. I already had semi-retired from teaching music in the schools, and I am semi-retired as a church music director, so I was able to focus on developing this vision that started so long ago.
Q: What are your hopes for the group?
A: I have been told I can’t change the world, and I certainly know that. However, I also can’t sit back and do nothing if I have the ability to even change the attitude of just one person. When I meet with the children, we don’t only rehearse songs about love, kindness and compassion, but we engage in activities that make the children more aware of how to live their life in a way that makes them more empathetic to those who could use a friend. It is my hope that not only will the children become more compassionate human beings as they mature, but that when they sing at community events they will have a positive effect on those in attendance as well. It is also my intent that this choir will give all children in our area an equal opportunity to be a part, with no restrictions. There will be no cost for children to participate, and there is no audition process. If there is a family without a car or a language barrier, I would like to find a way for that child to participate. I also am hoping to include other musicians who would be willing to also donate their time to play their instruments to enhance the performance of the HHJR choir.
Q: How did you get involved with music?
A: I am one of six children, and we have all been fortunate to have had the opportunity to take music lessons when we were young. Four of us took piano lessons, one took voice, and one took guitar. My mom sang in the church choir for many years and played sax when she was younger, and my dad sang a little when he was in school as well. They realized the importance of music and commitment to practicing every day, and I am so grateful to them for instilling that commitment in me and my siblings. We are all still musically inclined and have all passed that mindset on to our children. So many of our family gatherings include a music presentation, and Christmas, in particular, always includes a music singalong or presentation of some sort, thanks to the encouragement and guidance of our parents.
Q: What is your favorite thing about music?
A: Music is a universal language that transcends all barriers and reaches your soul. It speaks every language without ever muttering a spoken word.
Q: What role do you think music plays in people’s lives, especially for kids?
A: It seems to me that music is not only a way of communicating, but also a way to release and express emotions. It is such a great resource to release stress and relive previous memories. Studies have even proven the worth of music in the lives of those suffering with mental illnesses and memory losses.