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NGI Recipient: Matthew Reyna

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song and Dance (2017)

I really cannot express how amazing and transformative my week at CDSS Harmony of Song and Dance at Pinewoods was. It’s nearly a month now that I have been back in my current city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and I’m still reeling from the experience. Harmony Week was a collection of firsts that I will treasure for the
rest of my life: my first trip to the Northeast, my first time at any music camp, and my first time at Pinewoods. To be in a community for a whole week with so many talented musicians and dancers has truly changed my life.

I left Pinewoods with a whole new family — a family of kindred spirits, folks who love folk as much as I do! I left with a whole cache of new songs to share with my choir. I left with a newfound confidence in my voice. I left behind my anxiety and fears of the dance floor.

My favorite aspect of Harmony of Song and Dance Week was that it was “harmony of song and dance!” The week was such an incredible mix of singing and dancing, with space and appreciation for all levels of practice in both arenas. As a more experienced singer, I was overjoyed to find a place to enhance my dance skills. I felt at once both at ease and challenged to take new risks. What a beautiful blend!

Although there is only a small square dance community and no current contra dance in New Orleans, my immersive experience at Harmony of Song and Dance has emboldened me to seek out small, but active contra communities in cities within driving distance such as Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA. It is my hope to take
the initiative to draw on these communities to form a new dance in New Orleans. As the Adult Programs Coordinator at a beautiful historic house museum here, I am in a perfect position to make a space available for such a dance to take place.

There is no way any of this would have been possible for me without receiving a New Generation Initiative (NGI) Scholarship. As a struggling visual artist and nonprofit worker, the term “expendable income” doesn’t come up much in my life. I am eternally grateful for the generosity of both the CDSS and Pinewoods communities for affording me this invaluable experience.