St. Tammany youths learn to play the Blues


Harmonikids Hohner-sponsored Session With Specially Challenged Children In The Worlds Oldest Jazz Hall

On November 7, 2014 I was honored to be invited to teach Blues harmonica to a group of Mandeville Louisiana children - many with  behavioral challenges - at the historic Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Hall. The Dew Drop is the oldest existing Jazz hall in the world. Since 1895 its ancient wooden walls have vibrated to some of the earliest notes of the music. A venerable “Who’s Who” of Jazz legends have played the Dew Drop, including the great Louis Armstrong. From the start, events in the hall were held to aid those in need in the community, so having a special Hohner-sponsored Harmonikids Blues education session benefitting local kids with challenges was only fitting. Dew Drop board member and Blues DJ for WWOZ (New Orleans celebrated Jazz and Roots radio station) Dennis Schaibly organized the session. Dennis is a long time friend and supporter of both Harmonikids and my music which he features on his show. Years ago, he was instrumental in bringing me to the area to conduct Harmonikids sessions following the Katrina disaster. As then, the children at the Dew Drop were overjoyed receiving the shiny new Hohner harmonicas. They beamed with pride at their newfound musical talent as all quickly and effectively learned to play the Blues on them. Local reporter Abby Donaldson attended and covered the event. Her article for the New Orleans Advocate illustrates the wonderful success of the session.

Gary Allegretto,
Founding Director of Harmonikids

St. Tammany youths learn to play the Blues

Abby Donaldson - The New Orleans Advocate
Local students recently lined the historic Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Hall in Mandeville to learn how to play the harmonica from award-winning blues artist Gary Allegretto.

The young musicians included more than 20 students from Tchefuncte, Mandeville and Lake Harbor Middle Schools as well as children ages 8 to 13 from Walk with Me Children in Crisis. Walk with Me is a new counseling center in Covington that assists students ages 5 to 21 who have a mental health diagnosis or are having trouble in school.

Walk with Me Children in Crisis case manager Lynne Renihan commented on the music class.

“The kids brighten up when they play,” she said. “They get to express themselves and they have more confidence in themselves.”

Renihan said the class was the first time many of the children from Walk with Me Children in Crisis had played an instrument.

“The whole point of the program is to give kids the joy of making music on a real musical instrument,” Allegretto said.

Allegretto taught the students how to use their new instruments to play blues songs, including “Harmonica Blues,” “I’m a Man” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Read the full article

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