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Hearts for Music: Special needs orchestra performs with Akron Symphony

The one of a kind group welcomes everyone, regardless of unique challenges.

SOLON, Ohio — In Hearts for Music, there are no wrong notes.

And despite being touched by different struggles, these musicians are in harmony.

"To be able to give them something that can combine all of them under one roof is, for me, the most gratifying thing I've done so far in my life," Hearts for Music president and founder Kitrael Chin says.

Kitrael is the gentle leader of this inclusive outlet, and he knows how important that message is given his own struggles with hearing and ADHD. When we first met him back in 2019, his goal was to change the perception of people with special needs. 

"For me, I think the biggest accomplishment is seeing disabilities transformed into abilities, because that's the motto for Hearts for Music," Kitrael told us a few years ago.

Today, that motto remains the same.

"I've met adults with disabilities that I've worked with for 20 years," he remarked. "The wonderful thing that you notice is that they don't change. Their innocence stays the same. It grows."

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Mary Catherine Wallen has seen that growth in her own daughters. 

"They were very quiet and withdrawn, and it has really brought them out," she said. "The violin and the cello have really become kind of the girls' best friends."

Lisa and Kimberly Wallen are deaf; they've worked with Hearts of Music since the second grade. Playing music is healing for them.

"It brings happiness and gives me peace of mind," Lisa said.

"[Playing music] makes me feel happy and calm at the same time," Kimberly added.

It's healing for the parents, too. Their kids are flourishing and safe to be exactly who they are, through the power of music.

Taff Price considers Hearts for Music a gift to her son, Aaron, who has autism.

"You can see it in their eyes ... how they respond," Taff said. "A lot of kids with special needs will shut down, and it pulls them out and they laugh and they smile."

Aaron says music brings him to a different place.

"It relaxes the body and the brain," he told us.

Through tears, his mom chimed in, "Even now, my heart ... I'm just so proud that he's our son."

The community is proud, as well. This past October, Hearts for Music performed with the Akron Symphony thanks to Voices for Voices, a mental health advocacy program. The collaboration was so much more than music.

Listen to the beautiful music of the members of the Akron Symphony Orchestra performing at Walsh University for Voices For Voices World Mental Health Day. Such a joy and blessing to perform alongside them!

Posted by Hearts For Music, Inc on Monday, October 11, 2021

"It shows us that you can create music, even though they are cognitively unable to manipulate an instrument or physically be able to play an actual instrument," Kitrael said. "There's still a way for them to make music with professional musicians, and the music is every bit as beautiful as someone who picks up a violin with two hands and plays. For me, it means that kids with disabilities no longer have disabilities."

Hearts for Music is a non-profit relying solely on donations. If you'd like to help the mission, click HERE.

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