Meadville Tribune

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March 26, 2013

Classical music to fill Unitarian church at benefit

MEADVILLE — Spot quiz: Where would Anthony Warner, a multi-lingual interpreter living in Trieste, Italy, specializing in international arms control treaty negotiations and inspections in Eastern and Western Europe, and John Holter, staff internist at an alcohol and drug abuse treatment center in Greenville, N.C., spend this coming Friday evening if a group of Allegheny College students hadn’t decided 40-something years ago to organize a summer day camp for kids in the Meadville area?

One thing is fairly certain. They probably wouldn’t be celebrating the joy of music by presenting “Gifts of Gratitude,” a concert of classical music beginning at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Meadville at the southern tip of Diamond Park.

The concert and the reception that will immediately follow is free and open to the public. Presented by families participating in the Creating Landscapes for Families program who meet for after-school programming, a community dinner and evening entertainment every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the school year at the church, the reception will feature local foods prepared and presented with a creative flair. Donations will benefit the Creating Landscapes for Families Scholarship Fund.

The seeds for this memorable evening were planted during the summer of 1972, when Warner, 9, was a student attending Second District Elementary School and Holter had just completed his freshman year at Allegheny. Holter had joined PEER, which he describes as “a student run summer day camp for 7-to-12 year olds referred by local teachers.”

The full story of connections established, going dormant and reinvigorated will be interwoven into Friday’s performance.

In a condensed version of the tale, Holter recalled that each day of the program, the camp counselors drove station wagons to collect and drop off the participating kids.

“Anthony Warner was one of my five 9-year-old boys,” Holter recalled. “That was the age I had started piano, and at 19, I considered myself a pretty serious classical piano student. So when the door to the side porch of Anthony’s house swung open to reveal an old upright piano, I noticed. When I asked him about it the next day, he said he wanted lessons, but his foster mother couldn’t afford them.”

Holter describes the 9-year-old Warner as “a kid ripe with an uncanny creativity, sensitivity, and desire to learn.”

At 10 a.m. each Saturday morning, they met on Warner’s side porch for piano lessons. The piano was, as Holter described it, “troubled.” Because the porch wasn’t heated, the young pianist practiced during the winter months wearing old gloves with open fingertips.

After taking Warner to concerts at Allegheny, in Erie and at the legendary amphitheater in Chautauqua, N.Y., “I left Allegheny College in 1975, losing myself in nine years of graduate studies — and losing contact with Anthony,” Holter recalled.

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