Sunday, November 30, 2008

Allegro kids to perform at the White House - Again!

Charlotte's Allegro Foundation is becoming a holiday fixture at the White House.

For the third time in five years, the local organization – formally titled Allegro Foundation … A Champion for Children With Disabilities – has been invited to perform at a White House Christmas party.

The group's performance is scheduled for Saturday evening.

“We're certainly excited about going back,” said Christen Nechin, marketing director for Allegro, which provides music and movement training and activities for children with disabilities. “It's a big thrill for us again.”

In 2004, Allegro became the first group of children with disabilities ever to perform at the White House. They returned, at the invitation of the Bush administration, in 2005. The Allegro Foundation also visited Washington in 2006 for the National Independence Day Celebration and a performance at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for wounded veterans.

On the previous two White House trips, Allegro performed at open house programs, in which groups of VIPs were invited to tour the White House without the president in attendance. The group's leaders are holding out hope that this year's visit could be the big one – a personal party for President Bush.

“It could be a private party, and we won't know until we get there,” Nechin said. “But we've been rehearing the same, no matter what. It will be a big, big night for us.”

A group of 10 children with disabilities and 10 teaching assistants (high school students who work with the performers) will sing and do rhythmic movements to five songs, all with a holiday themes.

Leading the group are movement director Pat Farmer, who founded Allegro seven years ago, and music director Kenneth DeBoer, who also is music director at Sardis Presbyterian Church.

Farmer said this year's performance is dedicated to all veterans and current military members – in part, because of the group's experience at Walter Reed two years ago. She said she wished the performance could be broadcast to military members on duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The White House trip, Farmer added, is an opportunity that parents of the performers probably never expected for their children.

“What is truly amazing about the White House experience for children with disabilities and their families is that when many of the children were born with disabilities, there wasn't much hope,” she said. “Allegro provides that hope.”

It is touching, Farmer added, when a parent tells her, “What a miracle Allegro has been to us – my child, who has always been told what he or she cannot do, and then my child performs at the White House!”

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