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Gift of Music from Catawba Alumni Thrills Holy Angels

January 19, 2010

Category: Alumni


This article, which appeared in the Charlotte Observer on January 17, 2010, concerns the longtime support that two Catawba College alumni have provided to Holy Angels in Belmont. The alumni, Lynn Spittle Leonard '71 and her late husband, Don W. Leonard '69, made Holy Angels "their cause." The article speaks to the effect the Leonards' long-standing support had on this facility for severely disabled children and adults.

The Leonards ties to Catawba are strong. Don Leonard's father once served on Catawba's Board of Trustees and his sister, Rochelle Leonard Bost, is also an alumna of the College, a member of the Class of 1975.

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"Gift of Music Thrills Holy Angels"
By Joe DePriest, charlotteobserver.com

New program enables people with disabilities to perform with even the slightest motion.

The musical instrument is invisible - played by hand movements or nods of the head.

Sounds showering the air may be like the sweet purr of a harp or a full orchestra's blast.

The players are residents of Belmont-based Holy Angels, a center for children and adults with severe disabilities that is run by the Sisters of Mercy.

They're taking part in a new program that allows them to create musical sounds by interrupting an invisible beam that sends out ultra-sonic pulses. The sounds - anything from a guitar to a piano - are programmed into a computer/synthesizer connected to microphones that emit the ultrasonic waves. When the waves are broken, sounds come out in long or short bursts against background music created by the synthesizer.

Introduced in Germany in the late 1980s, the sound beams open up a world of possibilities for people who are extremely limited in what they can do.

"They can really enjoy music in a way in which they can actually participate," said Gaye Dimmick, director of creative arts at Holy Angels. "They're independent in a way they've never been before. It's a big step for them."

The sound beam is an addition to the recently announced Don & Lynn Leonard Music Program, named after two longtime volunteers at Holy Angels.

Don Leonard, who died of cancer in 2008, ran a Charlotte heating and air-conditioning business, but he made music on the side at Holy Angels.

Before he died in 2008 at 61, he asked that donations in his memory be made to Holy Angels, where he was considered the "resident musician." Nearly $12,000 came in.

"Don wanted to do something that would last," said Lynn Leonard of Gastonia. "I think he would be thrilled over this program. He knew the power of music."


Faces light up
Lexington native Don Leonard got his first guitar in junior high. His passion for music took off, even though he couldn't read a note and played by ear.

In the mid-1960s, as a student at Salisbury's Catawba College, he traveled with a band called The Jokers Six & the Marlboros, playing beach, rock and soul.  Read more...


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