Welcome to the Heroes’ Voices Blog

Director Richard Harrell leads veterans in song at a Heroes' Voices Workshop.
Director Richard Harrell leads veterans in song at a Heroes’ Voices Workshop.

Welcome to the very first Blog entry on the Heroes’ Voices web site. Heroes’ Voices Director Richard Harrell will be making regular entries to our blog page, and we plan to feature other “voices” from time to time. We hope that the blog will initiate a dialogue about issues, particularly relating to music, poetry and veterans in our community.

For the last 30 years I have worked in the world of opera. Most of those years have been devoted to working as a stage director and teacher with young professional singers and conservatory students. It is a blessing to be able to make a living in a field that you love, and my work has taken me all over the world.

However, in recent years my passion for teaching and directing opera began to dim. I was repeating myself, teaching the same repertoire over and over. Often the students had strong personal ambition, but lacked a passion for achieving the common good for ensemble projects. I began to think seriously about exploring other ways to share my gifts.

I do a good deal of traveling for my work, and over the last ten years I have encountered dozens of young soldiers in airports. When I would see these young people in uniform, eyes bright with promise and purpose, I would invariably think of how different they seemed from my conservatory students. These young people were on their way to literally give their lives for their country, and I would think about how many of these young lives would be shattered or possibly lost. These young soldiers in airports were part of the genesis for the new work I was about to begin.

A year ago I began a new organization called Heroes’ Voices in order to serve veterans through music and poetry. One of the greatest challenges that veterans face when returning home is reconnecting with their communities. Veterans often feel isolation, even disorientation after leaving a war zone, military service and returning to civilian life. In addition, over 500,000 veterans have, or will return, from Iraq and Afghanistan with some level of either Traumatic Brian Injury or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or both.

Creating venues and opportunities for veterans to make music together, and with other people, is an effective way to help veterans connect with community. Music Therapy is proving to be a powerful tool in treating battle related brain and psychological injuries. Heroes’ Voices was created to create music programs and opportunities for veterans. We also provide information relating to veteran’s issues and encourage cooperative partnerships between existing organizations. Since last October, over 500 veterans and over 350 volunteers attended Heroes’ Voices events.

My life and my spirit has been gently but deeply transformed by making these changes in my life and career. It is a risk, and more than a little scary to start a new venture from scratch at my age, but I experience such joy and a profound sense of satisfaction in this new life pursuit.