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The Broken Strings: What We Do for Love

by Rev. Curtis Clare, member of United Church of Christ La Mesa

      It all started in 2000 when Knobby James volunteered to provide some special music for his church’s worship services.  Knobby then asked me and Marc Towne to play—and sing—with him.  Thus was born the Broken Strings, an on-going musical ministry of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa (UCCLM)

     I was already taking my music to local retirement homes, nursing homes and rehabilitation hospitals on a monthly schedule, an activity in which the others soon joined.  Two other church members, Wayne Myers and Nick Hernandez soon came on board.  The Strings are a “flexible” group (open to anyone reasonably proficient at playing a compatible instrument) and it wasn’t long before Mike and Ken Wake, friends of Nick, were added.  Others have joined in from time to time but these form the core of the group.

     At present the Strings provide regular music programs for our church’s special activities, for sister churches of the UCC Southern Association, for civic celebrations and fund raisers for local service clubs and, of course, for a half-dozen retirement/nursing homes in the area, where we offer “interactive music programs” which involve the residents.

     A word about those “interactive” programs.  We play a type of musical Trivial Pursuit, asking questions about the music we play, awarding prizes (stuffed animals and colorful beads provided by members and friends of UCCLM) for correct responses.  These gentle competitions spark memories, stimulate conversations and provide a sense of lighthearted fun for participants.

     In addition, we always provide a substantial period for “sing-along” songs—old familiar tunes that not only offer a sense of community and commonality but which often inspire startling transformations in the demeanor and outlook of the residents.  Depressions lift.  Smiles appear.  Some stroke victims find that, while they cannot speak, they can sing…flawlessly!  The activity director at one of the homes calls us “musical therapists!”

     When asked about our “fee schedule,” we laugh and reply simply, “we don’t have one.”  Actually, however, while most of our performances are pro-bono for good causes, many institutions and groups do budget for such activities.  Happily, this past year, our income almost covered expenses (like gasoline).

     Looking back over the years—and ahead to those still to come, it seems to me an appropriate theme song for us might be the signature song from the musical, Chorus Line—“What I Did for Love.”

     What we do for love…the Broken Strings at work.


One Response to “The Broken Strings: What We Do for Love”
  1. Ed Lucas says:

    I just played drums with the Strings the other night at Kensington UCC. My take on things is here: http://goo.gl/DNrSH

    …and the Facebook album is at: http://goo.gl/QY8Jd


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