Following the loss of two classmates to suicide in 2017, LSN students took action to help heal their pain.
Sometimes, out of tragedy arises hope, love and healing. The night may be dark, but there is always a dawn. This is the message members of the Lee’s Summit North orchestra hope to share through their music.
Joe Keeney is the director of the orchestra, and deeply proud and appreciative of the efforts the students have made in response to the monumental sadness in the school.
“Last year, I had a group of senior orchestra students tell me they wanted to do something to help prevent such a tragedy happening again,” he says. “On their own, they came up with the idea of raising money through a benefit concert. We looked for an organization that helps people in need, and we found ReDiscover. They are a non-profit community mental health center that provides comprehensive programs and services for men, women and children whose lives have been affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. We also found that they have a team of counselors who help with suicide prevention.”
The planning began for the concert with a team of eight orchestra seniors. They picked a date and then held auditions for the entire music department, encouraging the performers to perform upbeat and inspirational music and acts, with the theme “A Celebration of Life.” The response was amazing, and they had vocalists, the jazz band, the string chamber group, the LSNHS Northern Star dance team, LSNHS North Side Steppers and the top chamber choir along with one-acts and several other contributions from talented students. Students sold tickets for $7 and advertised throughout the school, school district and community, and found local businesses to sponsor the benefit concert. Joe explained that it costs $240 to deal with a person who has suicidal thoughts, and that gives students who speak with sponsors a good base donation number.
The first concert, held March 16, 2018, was a huge success, and students raised $8,000 for ReDiscover. Following the concert, they sent out thank-you cards to all the business sponsors.
The story does not end there. These eight orchestra seniors reached out to the next senior orchestra students and handed over the task of organizing the next benefit concert to the next year’s six senior orchestra officers
“Last spring the two groups of students got together and worked on planning this year’s concert, which was held November 29, 2018. They raised $2,400,” Joe says. “The idea is to make the benefit concert for ReDiscover an annual event.”
As in the first year, students ran the whole show, organized the auditions, advertising the event and selling tickets. In addition, a team of students ran the light board and sound, organized a stage crew, and made programs.
Joe emphasized that the credit goes to the kids with one in particular who was the main organizer for the benefit concert, Emily Gerber. She was orchestra president last year and really took on the leadership role in organizing that first benefit concert.
“I talked with Emily a few weeks ago to tell her that we were most likely not going to match the proceeds that were earned last year,” Joe says. “She responded telling me, ‘It is not about the money as much as it is a healing process for the students.’ Even though Emily is in college she was able to raise a few hundred dollars and donated it to ReDiscover. As a music educator I have always known that the power of music has the ability to heal — that is what all our music students know, feel and share. We have found that an event like this builds a sense of community. Students coming together, sharing their talents for a greater good.”
He reiterated that this event was not a “teacher” idea but a student one. He is awed by the professionalism and talent they exhibited throughout the after-school planning of the event.
This year’s senior orchestra officers are committed to make sure the benefit for ReDiscover continues on next year. Without a doubt, next year’s group will continue the legacy and through it all possibly save lives.
Email Joe Keeney at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when benefits concerts will be held and visit rediscovermh.org for information about ReDiscover programs.