By Josh Hollenhorst, Billing Specialist
Music is important. This may seem like an obvious statement, but sometimes we need reminding. Music is one of a few things that has the power to move us, help us, or inspire us. Most importantly, music has the ability to bring people together. Music helps us celebrate good times and it gets us through bad times. Music molds our personalities and helps choose our friends. And, music is best when shared with someone else!
I started working at Hammer’s Plymouth Colony program almost two years ago. I was entering an entirely new field of work and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But, I found out (yet again) that no matter the situation, music always finds a way to be a part of it.
One of my first shifts had me going to the other side of town. I hadn’t yet met the individual I was driving, and as I pulled the van around to the front of the building, Andrew was ready to go. I introduced myself, as did he. We sat quietly for most of the ride. We had a short, uninvolved conversation, and as soon as we arrived, he hopped out of the van.
At the end of the evening, I went back to pick up Andrew. Unsure of radio station etiquette, I had quietly driven Andrew to his event. However, on my way to pick him up, I was alone and naturally blasted KOOL108. When I arrived, Andrew jumped in, and before I had the time to turn the radio down, he started singing along. We spent that 25-minute drive back singing oldies and switching stations to find hair band songs we could jam to. Aside from loudly singing along, we talked about bands/songs we liked and concerts we had seen. The music gave us a connection.
Most, if not all, of our time spent together during my first year supporting Andrew was in the van. Aside from our other shared love of talking sports, we spent almost every drive talking about music or singing along to our favorite hair bands, oldies and TV theme songs.
As time went on, I had yet to think about other ways music could influence my work at Hammer. The first two years out of college I was a music teacher, and I have been teaching lesson for years. Somehow, it never occurred to me that I could bring music to my role as a Direct Support Professional. Luckily, Andrew heard that I was in a band and played some instruments. Thus, we began what we now call: “What Could Have Been the Greatest ‘80s Hair/Rock Tribute Band Ever.” When Andrew came to me asking if I could teach him guitar, a light went off in my head…What a perfect way to use my skills to make this shared connection we have more meaningful!
We had one minor problem. I had switched to a position at our central office and only worked at Plymouth Colony a few shifts each month. We talked about expectations – the hard work and practice that come with learning a new instrument and the personal responsibility he would need between lessons. He agreed and we set off on the magical voyage of making music!
Andrew and I had twelve lessons over six months (which is not very many). Sometimes we had lessons in back to back weeks. Other times there were multiple weeks between meetings. It was a tough schedule to work through, but Andrew had the desire for and love of music to make it work (not to mention the giant inspirational Winger poster). He was diligent with his practicing. He asked question upon question. He was genuinely excited every second of each lesson we had. We worked hard in those dozen lessons. Andrew had never played an instrument in his life, and learning to play any instrument, especially your first, is not easy. Then again, when you are doing something you love, like music, it doesn’t seem so hard. It may have been challenging, but in a good way. Besides, Andrew and I had a whole lot of fun!