Harmony PSU Is More Than Just Do Re Mi
Talent and passion for the performing arts can be found around just about any corner at Penn State. Whether it’s an afternoon concert or a spontaneous dance performance among a crowd, the HUB seems to be a centralized place where students express creativity in front of their peers.
Harmony PSU, a performing arts club that integrates students with and without special needs, found a home in the HUB. After becoming an independent organization two years ago, Harmony is already creating a one-of-a-kind inclusive community where special needs students and volunteers can sing, dance, and act in their favorite Broadway shows.
At the end of each semester the club puts on a showcase to show off the choreography and scenes they practiced throughout the past 15 weeks. “Every semester has been an adventure,” Harmony Instructor Katrina Koch said.
Koch, a senior math major, said her two years instructing the club and three total years as a volunteer added a little something extra to her Penn State career. “[It’s] something that I love that I wasn’t getting with just my math classes,” she said.
During rehearsals, the atmosphere was incredible. Smiling faces and welcoming ‘hellos’ with high fives filled the room.
“I have a blast, it’s my favorite part of every week,” said freshman Web Master Amber Shojaie.
The weekly sessions start out with greetings and a few minutes for the 18 students and 13 volunteers to goof around and catch up.
Then as everyone meanders in, they circle around and start the warm up. They wiggled their arms and legs and opened their vocal chords with theatre exercises like saying, “The tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth and the jaw.” The group stretched their bodies, faces and voices over and over until they finished the warm up with chanting “I am a winner! I am a winner! I am a winner!”
Harmony focuses on creating an open and inviting place to learn new things about theatre. Harmony President Kaity Gonzalez thinks the students’ growth through their involvement with the club is a huge accomplishment.
Member Amber Shojaie commends the club for its constant creativity and the inclusion of everyone’s input, “[The students] have vivid imaginations…they make me think of something new,” she said.
Last semester the club performed scenes from Aladdin and even sang “Arabian Nights” acapella. Gonzalez especially loved the chance it gave students to learn new ways to work together for the arrangement to come together.
This semester’s showcase will be different than those in the past. Instead of performing at its usual spot in the State Theatre, Harmony will take the stage in the HUB’s Flex Theatre. This new venue opens up more opportunities for the club to bring in more dynamic choreography and props.
“This semester is also a lot of fun because we are in the Flex…we have a little bit more space than the black box gave us,” Koch said.
The group is taking on the musical “Hairspray” this semester. Dances include several dance moves from the show like the Mashed Potato and the Twist, but students can express themselves however they’d like. “The biggest thing for Harmony is being comfortable expressing a show and your interpretation of it,” Koch explained.
Shojaie agreed and added that there are dance modifications for the moves to get everyone moving despite the different range of familiarity with dancing.
Harmony brings “a sense of family, just to be in a club where everyone can be close and everyone is willing to help each other,” Shojaie said. The closely knit group fosters great relationships between the volunteers and students, making the experience that much more positive for everyone involved.
“It’s the best part of my week. Mondays are always a drag for people, but as soon as you walk into the dance studio, everyone is just immediately smiling and ready to have fun,” Koch said.
To see Harmony’s Spring 2016 showcase, pop into the Flex Theatre in the HUB at 4 p.m. on April 24.