Every Thursday morning, a little before 9:00, I arrive at 125th Street and Lexington Ave. Walking up the subway steps, I am greeted by a fellow giving away free newspapers, a few panhandlers, and lots of folks going to work.
A few feet down the sidewalk, I can see A.H.R.C. N.Y.C. staffers helping special needs adults off of vans and into the Fisher Center to start their day. Energetic or sleepy, most seem content. There is a feeling that everyone is safe, and exactly where they are supposed to be. Very nice!
Once upstairs, in the airy public area, I am greeted by energetic individuals eager to start their Thursday music. Sometimes, too many helpers join me carrying our small hand-percussion instruments, song sheets, and finally the beautiful, large piano keyboard, into the music space.
Almost by magic, the music starts. The crowd gathers. The one microphone is shared by all, as they choose favorite songs I have typed onto lyric sheets, kids’ songs we all enjoy, or totally original songs, improvised on the spot. As soon as I hear a singer’s key, I accompany freestyle, or with a lively rhythm. The ABC Song sounds pretty cool with a Reggae beat. Take Me Out To The Ball Game, makes a great jazz waltz.
Favorite songs, which are repeated over-and-over, are "My Girl" (sung as "My Boy" by one clever lady), "Stayin’ Alive", and "Stop! In the Name Of Love". The keyboard is so well programmed, I am able to play with the exact rhythms, keys and tempos as the original recordings.
Best fun for me is when presumably non-verbal individuals take the mike and sing. Although they may not enunciate words, their vocal sounds are often on pitch and in rhythm. Many days, staffers have happened by, and been amazed to hear a “non-verbal” individual sing into the microphone.
The music plays for over two hours without a break. Singers come and go, moving between their various activities. We always end with simple a Good Bye Song I composed. The singers acknowledge each other by name, while saying good bye to the music, and reminding themselves that I will be back with more music, the next week.