Longmont Suzuki Strings: Play for Peace, a Pennies for Peace fundraising concert.

Performers with the wagon of pennies. Photo courtesy of Jack Greene.

Image by Jack Greene

For six weeks during the Spring of 2009, strings were tuned, pieces were polished and pennies were collected. 76 students prepared for Longmont Suzuki Strings’ first “Play For Peace” concert on Saturday, April 18. The students and faculty of violin, viola and cello from Longmont, Boulder, Estes Park, Loveland, Fort Collins, Golden and surrounding areas performed a concert of music from beginning to advanced levels. It included special works that symbolize peace, understanding and harmony around the world. Play for Peace featured Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee by Beethoven, Dona Nobis Pacem (the traditional round, Give Us Peace) and America the Beautiful, composed by Katherine Lee Bates after an inspirational trip to the summit of Colorado’s Pike’s Peak in 1893. All of the students, teachers, parents and audience ended the concert by playing and singing Let There Be Peace On Earth by Cy Miller and Jill Jackson.

The 20th Century composer Paul Hindemith stated, “People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least while the music lasts.” Shinichi Suzuki believed that children who hear and play great music become good citizens with beautiful, peaceful hearts. His dream was to bring understanding and peace to the world. For his vision of universal harmony and contribution to children’s education, Dr. Suzuki was nominated for the Nobel Peace Price in 1993.

Longmont Suzuki Strings wanted to do more than just perform wonderful music. To create a lasting impact, Play For Peace became a fundraiser for Pennies For Peace, a program of the Central Asian Institute founded by Greg Mortenson, author of the bestseller, Three Cups of Tea. The money raised was donated to Pennies For Peace which supports community-based education, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through his work, Mortenson has realized that the better educated the women are, the less likely they will be to let their own children join extremist movements. The Central Asia Institute also builds libraries, community centers and women’s vocational centers and assists with water projects and scholarships for students to pursue degrees in higher education. In 2009, Greg Mortenson, like Suzuki, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian efforts.

The Longmont Suzuki Strings students initiated a “Practice Pennies for Peace Campaign,” collecting pennies from teachers, parents, relatives and friends for repetitions of the pieces they prepared for the concert as well as for scales and other exercises they played each day. They performed in schools, churches and businesses and busked at shopping malls. They upturned sofa cushions, raided penny jars and searched car floorboards for loose change, bringing their pennies to group class each week. At the end of the concert, a wagon load of penny containers was wheeled onto the stage. They had raised $1,317.56! As their musical skills grew, they learned about Pakistan and Afghanistan and took pride in their ability as philanthropists to create global change. As the concert music improved each week, they reaped the intrinsic rewards of sharing and working together to bring hope and education to children in desperate need on the other side of the world. As they shared their music with others, they contributed to world peace, one penny at a time, and became more peaceful, caring and loving people in a universal society.

A special guest at the Play For Peace concert was Christiane Leitinger, Executive Director of Pennies For Peace. Herself the Suzuki parent of two piano students, she directs Pennies For Peace from her office near Denver. She praised the Longmont Suzuki Strings students for the quality of their playing and the impressive amount of money they had raised. Excerpts from Longmont Suzuki Strings’ Play For Peace concert will be included in upcoming videos on their website, penniesforpeace.org !

Longmont Suzuki Strings was founded by Ellie Albers LeRoux in 1979. After her move to Hawaii in 2008, the program was continued through the cooperation six area teachers: Barbara Barber – violin and viola, Estes Park; Andrea French – violin, viola and cello, Loveland; Erron Lacy – violin, Longmont; Arlene Patterson – violin, Longmont; Karla Smart-Hickman – violin, Longmont; Megan Titensor – cello, Louisville. All are committed to providing high quality music instruction for their students while helping them develop noble character and beautiful hearts.

A Final Note

Bruce Patterson

Bruce Patterson. Photo courtesy of High Plains Video Production.

Image by High Plains Video Production

Longmont Suzuki Strings’ longtime pianist, Bruce Patterson, did an unusually outstanding job of accompanying the Play For Peace concert. His splendid and creative accompaniments made the students sound like pros. Tragically and suddenly, Bruce passed away just 10 days after the concert. Play For Peace was his last large-scale performance. The students, parents and teachers of Longmont Suzuki Strings are grateful to have known Bruce and treasure the many times he played with them. They will always remember fondly his warm smile, love of music and generous spirit.