Little Hands, Big Hands: Building Bridges Through Music

by Susan Lakes

Little hands lugged violin cases. Big hands clutched backpacks and bags.

Then, when the little hands glided smoothly over the strings and bows, music rang out, and the big hands let go of the cargo and life possessions long enough to clap. Some of those adults with the big hands even cheered “Bravo” and “Alright” as the small bodies with the little hands bowed and smiled.

This was the scene at the Drop-Inn Center, the area’s largest homeless shelter, on a recent Friday afternoon. Suzuki violin students from the city’s School of Performing Arts took center stage for an afternoon concert and reception.

Dave Mason, faculty member for the school and director of the children’s’ orchestra, set a neighborly tone for the interaction between the big-handed shelter residents and the smaller–handed student musicians.

“We’re here from the school next door,” he said. The Performing Arts Center moved into a new building a block away from the homeless shelter in 2010, creating some concern and tension.

That tension about the school’s proximity to the shelter was the reason why a small informal committee formed. It is called SCPA/OTR and its goal is to build bridges, change attitudes and build a solid relationship between the School for Performing Arts and the Over–The-Rhine community as a whole.

Understanding and education, not controversy, was what was on the mind of one of the young musician’s dads. Ricco Johnson said his daughter had some questions about the scheduled concert at the Drop Inn Center. Johnson, partner in the Over-Rhine-Business MIXX, planned to talk with his daughter, Mhilton after the visit and answer any of her questions.

“This is good for the community and the children,” Johnson said about the concert. “A lot of people shy away [from homeless shelters], but it [homelessness] could happen to any of us.”

Mason certainly didn’t shy away when he picked the concert venue.

“I told the kids they’d like playing here,” he said, complimenting the lively acoustics inside the shelter.

Center residents were glad he picked The Drop Inn Center, too. Resident Jacklyn Jones heard the violin music, and it stirred some memories from way back.

“It reminds me of stuff I did in school,” she said. “It’s a nice concert and the kids did a good job. It was entertaining.”

Once the music ended, the little hands clutched ice cream cones. So did the big hands.