When President Rosemarie rang the Rotary bell, everyone in the packed Weber’s ballroom stood to sing “God Bless America.” Joan Knoertzer did a splendid job, as she had during the musical prelude. The stage was well-set for Past President Bob Buchanan’s stirring Inspiration.
“Our speaker, Mike Ball, will talk to us about the role of music in the lives of troubled youths,” Bob began. “I feel humble because many of you have devoted your careers to music education; introducing young people to the beauty of music. We are in the presence of Tom Millard, Linda Carter, Rick Ingram, Tom Strode. Art Williams supervised music programs at Pioneer High School. Who have I missed?”
Bob then enumerated several prime benefits of music: “…a gift to young people, especially those with an often violent past:
“1. Mastery of music requires work. Not for the lazy-of-heart; 2. Music can inspire self-confidence…; 3. Music teaches teamwork. Group performance demands commitment to the whole team like any team sport. Our daughter plays 1st viola for the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra. I asked her how she knows when the viola section starts in a symphony. ‘With hard work, practice, and and close attention.’; 4. Reading music is a life-long skill. Once you have it, no one can take it away; 5. No texting!
“Composers or performers speak to our emotions through music, a route for troubled young people to manage their emotional storms.”
Song: Joe ‘Joey D’ Diederich led us in an ambitious rendering of “Come Go with Me.” Splitting the room into his usual ‘Dip Sticks’ and ‘Dip Chicks,’ the Doo-wop classic came alive with refrains of “Dum dum dum dum dum, dumbedooby/Dum, WOE WOE WOE WOEOH!” Hats off to Joey D!
Rosemarie then greeted everyone and thanked the meeting volunteers. “We have a lot of guests, but no visiting Rotarians,” she remarked. “Members, please introduce your guests.” Katie Bauer introduced Molly Hilton; Susan Smith: Bill and Phyllis Robb, Ray Argylle, and her husband, Bob Gray; Brooks Sitterley: his cousin, Sylvia Sanders; PP Greg Stejskal: Paul Eisenberg; Sue Froelich: her brother, Mark Froelich; Dawn Johnson: Tim Joy, Dr. Nancy Johnson, and our speaker, Mike Ball; B. Dawson: Liz Andrews. A hearty welcome went up to all.
Regaining the podium, Rosemarie described the Board meeting that had taken place earlier that morning. “We discussed the status of Emeritus, and made a by-law change. We also approved two new members: Sarah Jazinski and Becky Kaszkowski of The Glacier Hills Foundation. Also, Rosemary and Mark Mackelinsky, who are transfer members from North Carolina.”
Announcements: “I received a beautiful card from Rose Bellanca,” continued Rosemarie. “Her husband, Joe, was a member briefly before he became ill. Rose, who’s president of WCC and has spoken to us a couple times, thanks us for “all the signatures of the Rotarians.”
Wine, Women and Song: Will offer a fundraising concert on August 25 at The Ark at 3:00 p.m. (for the silent auction), and at 4:00 for the performance.
The next RCAA Satellite club meeting will be at The Pretzel Bell on August 27 at 5:30 p.m.
Golf and Tennis Outing: “It’s coming up,” Rosemarie noted. “Ashish thanks everybody for their participation.”
The Social Committee and Pierre Paul Gallery are hosting an exhibition of the paintings of Indian artist Shanavas Rahim, who is wheelchair bound with muscular dystrophy. Titled “Vision of Dreams,” the exhibition will be Shanavas’ debut. This is a RCAA event. The art will be for sale, and Pierre Paul will provide a South Indian buffet: Friday, September 20, from 6:00-8:00 p.m., at 3252 Washtenaw Avenue, next to Conlin Travel.
“And don’t forget One Rotary Summit at Concordia University on September 14. Our former DG, Michelangelo Caruso, will talk about ‘How to Tell a Story’. There will be a BBQ. But we need help, if you’d like to volunteer.”
Speaker: Dawn Johnson came to the podium to introduce our speaker, Mike Ball, founder of the non-profit, Lost Voices. “Mike Ball has written songs all his life,” Dawn began. “He founded Lost Voices to assist at risk young people through folk music. Please give a warm Rotary welcome to Mike Ball.”
A warm ovation greeted Mike, who came to the podium, guitar strapped around his shoulder, beaming a great smile. “A friend told me that when you enter a roomful of Rotarians, keep your hands on your wallet!” After this Dangerfield-esque opener, Mike launched into a recounting of his life’s passion — helping at-risk (and, in many cases, incarcerated) teens and young adults. This was clearly soul-stirring territory, as Mike explained: “It’s not sadness that makes me emotional, it’s gladness. I see the faces of these kids.” He described his experience leading folk music sessions at the old Maxey center: “Now, Maxey’s shut down, unfortunately, but it used to be the place for violent juveniles — including those who’d killed someone. It was the place you went before being sent to where the big guys were, in prison. But since it’s closing, they’re sent to prison anyway.” His audience were beginning to feel the queasy discomfort of imagining complete vulnerability.
“The [inmate] kids were given permission to talk about anything — even about being raped,” Mike declared. He’d brought along fellow musicians Josh and Kitty. “They’re not going to want to learn to write folk songs,” Mike thought, “but they did.” He described one boy, “a really hard kid,” who surprised them all by focusing complete attention to composing his song. The kids would also collaborate on a group song: “They might not agree on a lot,” Mike observed, “but they were able to agree on something.” The result was a song he performs at most of his sessions today.
Perhaps the most moving story concerned a girl, “named Misty. She’d been burned over her body. ‘I’m not smart or pretty like the other girls,” she would say to Mike every time he’d ask if she’d like to write a song. But he didn’t give up. Eventually, she agreed. He worked with her to craft the lyrics and music; the result was a song with variations of the line ‘Love is not hard to find. You can find it in a midnight sky, you can find it in a baby’s cry.’ When Misty heard it played, she went ‘Wow!’ We sang the song — ‘Misty’s Song’ — at the [concert of the kids’ songs] as the last song performed.”
Then Mike brought it all home: “Can you imagine the fear they felt at the beginning, until ‘the creative switch was flipped?’ They left singing.”
Mike received a standing ovation, with several otherwise staunch Rotarians fighting back tears — but not of sadness; of gladness.