(Feb. 2, 2009)
Thanks to three young musician-philanthropists, children at the Brody Pediatric Outpatient Center at East Carolina University will have more books to read.
Sisters Anna and Mia Dietrich and friend Emily McLawhorn turned their violin talents into a fund-raising effort that garnered $1,900 during the holidays for the program Reach Out and Read, a national children's literacy program. The money will be used to buy books for ECU pediatricians to give their young patients.
"We believe that early literacy will promote both academic success and build self esteem, much in the way that our early start in music (at age 3) has done for us," Anna said. "It seemed like a perfect fit."
Anna, 16, and Emily, 18, began Project Harmony in 2005 as a way to raise money for music scholarships and other youth-oriented programs. Mia, 14, joined them the following year. Sometimes friends or siblings join them. They play with the ECU Eastern Youth Orchestra and at the local Suzuki Violin Institute. Their Project Harmony T-shirts read, "United by strings, motivated by love."
Playing at holiday parties and other gatherings, they raised several hundred dollars for projects such as Sadie Saulter Elementary School's fledgling violin program. But their efforts hit a high note late last year when they started playing for Reach Out and Read.
Their first event was a holiday party hosted by Dr. Dale Newton, an ECU pediatrician. From there, they played at five other events, raising money at each one. They performed chamber music and Christmas carols, Anna said.
"These talented young women gave up evenings of free time to raise funds for the books for children," said Newton, who invited the girls to play at a second event. "That is pretty special."
At other times of year, Project Harmony provides music therapy for those who are unwell and of limited mobility, frequently playing for patients at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, nursing facilities and even those who are shut-in. All three have volunteered their time working with younger violin students in Pitt County and Greene County Schools.
Anna and Mia are students at J.H Rose High School and the daughters of Julie and Robert Dietrich of Greenville. Emily is a student at Greene Central High School and the daughter of Ed and Annell McLawhorn of Snow Hill.