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When I opened and read the article entitled “Our night at Carnegie Hall” in the December 15, 2011, edition of The Valley Reporter, I was both saddened and surprised.
My name is Patty Kirpan and I am the mother of a beautiful daughter named Grace Kirpan. Grace is 20 years old and has Down syndrome and a hearing loss. After spending her elementary years at Moretown, she joined her peers at Harwood Union for middle school. Agreeing wholeheartedly with the notion that music should be presented and nurtured in every child, Grace took piano and violin lessons and sang during any free time. I naturally assume this would continue at Harwood and so she was enrolled in any musical opportunities available.
The meetings and advocacy were seemingly endless at times, often pulling me away from my own job. But I must say the results for my daughter were spectacular. She was involved in every Harwood spring musical starting with her role as “Sandy the dog” in Annie. There was Cinderella, Pirates of Penzance, Anyone Can Whistle and West Side Story to name a few.
Ruth Ann, Peter, Chris, Bruce, Scott and Di all worked with Grace to help her shine as they worked with all the other kids. Did Grace get the lead part as I, her mother and biggest fan, hoped for? No, but she got to tryout and was put where the experts – her music teachers – felt she needed to be. Sometimes it was both acts on stage, sometimes five minutes. One year, it was stage crew. Grace, however, was always totally included and proudly wore her musical T-shirt that Di saved for her before every show and attended every cast party – always the last to leave.
Grace has also been in every Harwood concert since middle school, both in band and chorus. Chris Rivers and Di Phillips always did a fantastic job including her and she often stood silently on stage waiting for her turn. When I asked her about this she would simply say, “I’m not playing in that song, I’m in the last one.” (No big deal to her.)
Even though my child has disabilities, I felt totally included in the music program. In fact, my responsibilities were made known by Chris and Di when I was called upon to sell fruit, make cookies to sell at intermission, sell tickets and to ride the bus as a chaperone for the marching band at the All State Musical Festival parade. I am only speaking for my daughter Grace and myself, but she was a “regular kid” and I was a “regular parent” – the greatest gift you can have if you have a special needs child.
Kirpan lives in Moretown.