Harmony Project to host Big Table conversation in nearby prison

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Monday marked the ninth season for the Harmony Project Columbus. The organization is a community choir under the direction of David Brown.

"The harmony that I’m going for is not musical primarily, it’s social," said Brown. "I started Harmony Project because I wanted my community to look like a community that I wanted to be in. So, I wanted it to be black, brown and white. I wanted it to be gay and straight. I wanted it to be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhism, Hindu, Atheistic, agnostic."

The choir is made up of 500 voices of all different backgrounds and professions. There are no auditions to get in, but there is one requirement.

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"You have to give back to the community," Brown said. "So, singing is just the outlet that we provide."

The Harmony Project puts on two concerts a year. Between rehearsals, it's members participate in community service projects of various types across Central Ohio.

Roni Burkes-Trowsdell has been a member of the choir for several years. She is also warden at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, a state prison for female-offenders.

"From the perspective of our women, freedom means something very different typically than somebody who is from the community. And I often say freedom is a state of mind, not a tangible condition," she said.

Wednesday, the Harmony Project will partner with ORW as part of the Columbus Foundation's Big Table event. It's where dozens of organizations across the city host a meal and conversations to strengthen the community.

"We thought putting it inside of a prison allows people who've never been to a prison before to go in," said Brown. "[It] allows people who may have never met anyone who's a victim of the opioid crisis to suddenly share a meal and share time with people who've been through this. But it also allows the inmates to tell their stories."

Brown says he hopes folks on both sides of the conversation learn from one another and gain a new perspective about the people who live within their communities.

The Big Table event begins Wednesday morning. If you are interested in signing up to attend a conversation near you, click here.