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Spreading The News

July 27, 2008

By Ken Keuffel, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 27–The musicians in the Percussion Ensemble at the Enrichment Center on Marshall Street make money from performing and from recording. They exemplify how the center has made its mark, namely empowering people with developmental disabilities by engaging them in various artistic enterprises.

The Percussion Ensemble has played in several local venues and made three CDs. It has been a well-known part of Winston-Salem’s arts scene for several years. But in general, the Percussion Ensemble concept is thought to have not caught on at other organizations that work with people with developmental disabilities around the country.

That could begin to change next weekend when the ensemble presents its first performances outside North Carolina.

Aaron Bachelder, a guitarist who leads the ensemble, will lecture at the 2008 NCE Summer Leadership Institute in White Plains, N.Y., near New York City. (NCE is short for National Conference of Executives of The Arc; Arc describes itself as the “world’s largest community-based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”)

As part of Bachelder’s presentation, titled “Vocational Options through Music,” the Percussion Ensemble will perform selections from Ten Songs (Microearth Records), its latest CD. The audience will consist of people who run organizations similar to the Enrichment Center.

“This one conference is the only conference that’s specifically designed for executive directors of The Arc,” said Valerie Vizena, the Enrichment Center’s executive director. “It’s highly devoted to leadership training. It’s a great networking opportunity for executives to be able to talk about other ideas and options and programming. That’s why we thought this would be a really perfect spot to go and do this.”

Vizena said that she’s “had many opportunities to see many different locations,” having served on NCE’s national board.

“I think what we do here is extremely unique,” she said. “The Percussion Ensemble has no ceiling on the expectations. They’ve recently released their third CD. There are a couple of European stations that have picked up the music and are playing it as bumper music on talk radio. Our music is getting out there. It’s got to be because people like it.”

Bachelder has lined up two other gigs for the Percussion Ensemble during its stay in New York. The group will perform at American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan and Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn.

“I’m hoping to bring the group to a wider audience,” Bachelder said. “They deserve to be heard outside our community.”

Ken Keuffel can be reached at 727-7337 or at kkeuffel@wsjournal.com.

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