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GCAC Presents: Harmony on the South Side

Chris Sunami Chris Sunami GCAC Presents: Harmony on the South Side
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A video that has received 600,000+ views on YouTube. An opera singer who toured Europe, and sang with symphony orchestras. A vocalist who backed Linda Rondstadt. A guitarist who played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk. A vocalist who opened for Johnny Cash and Parliament Funkadelic.

Six states battling head to head in the arts. Ten straight years of live karaoke. What does it all have in common?

If you answered Harmony on the South Side, go to the head of the class.

The arts outreach ministry of Columbus’ innovative social service organization, Community Development For All People (best known for giving away over a million dollars of clothing every year at the “Free Store” on the corner of Whittier and Parsons) Harmony on the South Side brings free, high quality arts programming to the most disenfranchised and disadvantaged members of the Columbus community. The following are some of Harmony on the South Side’s programs.


The All People Band
You might say that the All People Band was started because of alcoholism and drug abuse. The South Side neighborhood is home to more than its fair share of people struggling to overcome addictions. At the same time, it has far less than its fair share of places to enjoy cultural offerings such as live music. Founder Eileen Howard’s vision was to provide concerts by elite professional musicians in a drug and alcohol free setting. Over the years, the group has expanded to include some of the most storied and celebrated musicians in Columbus, playing side by side with members of the South Side community who have overcome problems such as homelessness, drug addiction, poverty and depression to take their rightful place on stage.

The Open Mic
Ten years is a lot of karaoke. The Open Mic started as a place for inner city children and teenagers to find their voices. Soon, however, it became clear that there were a lot of adults who also wanted nothing more than to sing and be heard. Operated without funding, on a strictly volunteer basis, according to the principle “each one, teach one”, The Open Mic provides free weekly voice and instrumental lessons and performance opportunities. Over the years it has featured bands, poets, guitarists, drummers, dancers, mimes, songwriters, comedians, famous guests, and of course, the ever-present karaoke machine.

The Columbus Invitational Arts Competition
Since 2012, Harmony on the South Side has been a key supporter of the Columbus Invitational Arts Competition, which recognizes organizations that combine artistic excellence with exceptional community involvement.

This past August, the Invitational brought together, for the first time, groups from six different states, which battled head-to-head in two competition divisions, Performing Arts and Visual Arts. An answer to reality shows such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, the Invitational has brought together organizations representing over four hundred individual artists.

Arts Encounters
Paper bags, bottle caps, fabric scraps, coffee filters –some people might see trash, but to the volunteers who run Harmony on the South Side’s newest initiative, these are art supplies. Arts Encounters provides free monthly visual arts workshops to the children of parents who shop at the United Methodist Free Store (or who attend the summer events by the All People Band) –children who, in a time when arts programs are being cut from school budgets, might not otherwise have a way to experience the joy of making art themselves.


Harmony on the South Side is happy to accept your donations of money, art supplies or musical equipment, and also has plenty of work for volunteers with a background in the arts, or in working with children and teenagers. For more, contact Chris Sunami at 614 285-4057, or at [email protected]. Please also check out our website at southsideharmony.com (invitationalarts.org for the Columbus Invitational). All events are free, except for the Invitational (discounted tickets will be made available on the website next summer).

And if you’re wondering about that video? See “Wonderful World, All People Jam Band” on YouTube.

GCAC Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus – in partnership with the Columbus Arts Marketing Association, a professional development and networking association of arts marketers. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at the arts in Columbus.

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