The community that comes together as a team to achieve an end goal is the guiding concept by which Paul Grangaard, an Edina West alumnus in 1976, launched a new charitable partnership with longtime friend and world-class trumpeter Charles Lazarus more early this year.
This idea came to fruition in real time at the end of last month as the partnership hosted a benefit concert in collaboration with the Edina High School Concert Band, supporting mental health services. CircleRock Concerts for Community, the unofficial non-profit and partnership, held their very first concert at Edina High School on October 25. , family home visits and mental health care.
In addition to the 80 high school students who attended the concert, Lazarus and his band, including singer Tonia Hughes Kendrick and former Prince’s New Power Generation keyboardist Tommy Barbarella, performed alongside the students. Percussionist Daryl Boudreaux, bassist Jeff Bailey and drummer David Schmalenberger also performed.
âThe combination was truly magical,â said Grangaard, producer and concert donor.
Lazare accepted. âIt was so satisfying to see such synergy,â he said. âGrangaard (a) the capacity to be a builder of community bonds. … He’s very visionary that way.
The value Grangaard places on working together dates back to his time in high school, performing in Edina’s high school concert orchestra in the mid-1970s under the direction of then-band director Ed Melichar.
“I still think of him, to this day, a lot in the things he taught us not only about music, but also about playing together, playing fair, taking the lead when it was yours. turn to take the lead, âsaid Grangaard. noted. “And then, just the idea of, what does it mean to be in solidarity?” “
This includes “working as a team to try to accomplish something much better than you could do on your own,” he added.
Melichar’s influence has spread to other areas of the Edina community as well, including the annual Torchlight Concert, which is hosted with the help of Scott Crosbie, a Melichar alumnus of the 1st John Philip Sousa Memorial Band.
The name of the partnership itself – CircleRock – is linked to a place of community for Grangaard. Its origin comes from his childhood in Edina. He lived on Duggan Plaza, which splits into a circle within a section. Grangaard recalls that the circle was a place where his neighbors could meet to chat and have an annual picnic, and where he played his first game of baseball. A large red boulder also sat in the circle, catching his interest.
âIt’s the first thing I remember being really curious about. And I think curiosity is the source of a lot of good things that have happened to me in my life, âsaid Grangaard. âThe rock symbolizes the things around which we gather. “
Prior to launching the partnership, Grangaard also used the CircleRock name for a menswear line in 2018 which later merged with Faribault Woolen Mill Co. Grangaard is now CEO of that company.
Grangaard, who has been friends with Lazarus for years through their one-on-one ties to the Minnesota Orchestra, started the charity in hopes of supporting mental health causes through music. Grangaard’s daughter, who is now a practicing psychologist, went through her own mental health crisis in college – and with the help of resources, made a full recovery. She now advises high school, college and graduate students, he said.
Grangaard and Lazarus, who co-created the annual Merry & Bright concert with the Minnesota Orchestra, discussed the mental health crisis in the United States, both before and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grangaard said. Because so often people can’t afford mental health assistance, the two decided to give a concert.
âWe should be doing something that serves this cause because that’s what could make a tangible difference in people’s lives. And also, we can make great music together, âLazarus said.
Lazarus, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2000, considered contacting Paul Kile, director of the Edina High School Concert Band, to help him organize the concert. Lazarus had played with the band before and had known Kile for years.
He didn’t hesitate to say yes, Kile confirmed. âNot only is the cause worth it, but I would like my students to see others making an effort to help causes and learn more about philanthropy,â Kile said.
The process of putting on a concert of this magnitude was not an easy task, Kile said. This included finding a repertoire or set of pieces to play, rehearsing with and without Lazarus, and coordinating the event through many Zoom meetings, he said. It was the first student concert in more than 18 months since the start of the pandemic.
The work was “exhausting,” Kile said. âBut you know, when you put all your chips in that card hand, you can win really big. … I put in all the chips and the victory was huge.
Before kicking off the concert, organizers gave a presentation with quotes from students reflecting on their mental health throughout the pandemic. The questions posed to the students reflected the songs played by the group during the concert.
A question was asked: “Can you share an experience that has ‘spoiled’ you? âWith reference to a part calledâ hardened steel â. One student replied: “Living with the pandemic has certainly tempered me – I’m much stronger so I can bounce back when I’m at my worst.”
Another question asked students about the state of their mental health over the past year and more in the face of the pandemic. Responses included acknowledging loneliness due to less social interaction, anger because others were less secure than them, and feelings of heightened anxiety.
Choosing The Family Partnership, a non-profit organization that provides mental health support to families, was “an ideal fit,” Lazarus said.
âThe most powerful thing a young person has is the ability to make choices. But to be able to make the best choices that will lead them on the path to a positive life, they need to feel mentally and physically safe and healthy, âLazarus said.
On October 19, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared child and adolescent mental health a “worsening crisis” related to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the fight for racial justice.
Molly Greenman, CEO of The Family Partnership, said when Grangaard spoke to the audience about her daughter’s experience, people could be seen in the crowd nodding their heads. âWe know how much greater the mental health needs are after almost two years of COVID,â she said.
Greenman added that the concert was “a great opportunity for us to communicate not only what we do, but the needs of the people we serve.”
The non-profit organization is also of particular importance to Grangaard, as he served on its board in the late 1980s and has been donating since then, he said.
Students were also asked if they were excited to perform alongside Lazarus and his band, the presentation showed. One student wrote: âHe is an inspiring example of how good you can be with hard work and dedication.
Sam Ramirez, a student at Edina High School and harmony orchestra trumpeter, said the experience was “fulfilling.”
âIt was really good to be able to use the money from the tickets to do something with it and donate to this cause,â he said.
After the presentation, the Concert Band opened the show with five pieces, two of which included Lazarus solo with the students. After that, Lazarus and his band closed the gig with a 50-minute set, Kile said.
âIt was an absolute home run,â Kile said. âNot only do I think the high school kids performed so well so early in the year and coming out of a pandemic, but I loved the energy and enthusiasm they brought to the audience when (Lazarus) and his group have taken over. “
Grangaard said that hearing âbeautiful musicâ like the sounds created by Lazarus, his band and the Concert Band is the reason he enjoys doing this job. âWe need more good music in the world and it’s fun to help make it happen. “
Kile noted that he perceived a sense of pride in Edina among the students because of Grangaard. âThis is a gentleman who was sitting where I am now, who helped bring it all together because of his experiences in the Edina Concert Band,â he said. âIt kind of serves as a model for what these students could do after graduation. “
In February, CircleRock Concerts for Community plans to host another benefit concert at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church to benefit Minneapolis-based Mental Health Connect.
For Lazare, it is the sense of connection that makes him a musician. âTeamwork, leadership and, above all, the ability to listen are intrinsic to musical creation. “
“It’s so great to work with children, to work with young people, to see them engage in music and build a communityâ¦ but also to learn these skills which will be useful to them in all facets of their lives. “Lazarus said.
– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent
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