Two-part Harmony

Twelve-year-old Merrick Presser isn't a huge fan of big-band music. But he knows how important it was to his grandparents' generation.

Merrick participated in Music of My Mind: Creating Musical Biographies, a program in which students interview Judson at University Circle residents one on one, use cameras to record the interviews and create a documentary that captures the impact of music on past generations -- and bridges the gap to the present one.

Merrick spent two and a half weeks interviewing and filming a Judson at University Circle resident about the music of his youth, then watched the documentaries the other students made.

"Just hearing their life stories was amazing," Merrick says. "Hearing how sad their lives were during the Depression made me feel so grateful for what I have now."

Another student interviewed Judson Retirement Community resident Wilmah Lapham, 92, a former music and art teacher, last year. At 19, Lapham got her first job teaching music the same year the market crashed in 1932. She says she made only $1,000 that year, but managed to save $500 of it.

Presented by Progressive Arts Alliance, with aid from Case Western Reserve University's Center for Music and Technology, the students receive more than just technical help.

"I can't explain what I gained," Merrick says. "It's just beyond words."

A public screening of this year's Music of My Mind documentaries will be at 8 p.m. July 20 on Wade Oval in University Circle. Admission is free.

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