Stevenson seniors create Crescendo for a Cause for community service

Suffice it to say, Stevenson High School seniors Allen Beckwith and Kiran Mohan are passionate about music.

Beckwith is the drum major in Stevenson's marching band, and together they perform in the Honor Band, Patriot Orchestra and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Beckwith also participates in Stevenson's pep band, its jazz ensemble, as well as in the Buffalo Grove Symphonic Band.

Yet, they want to do more than perform music. They want to share it.

Stevenson High School seniors Allen Beckwith and Kiran Mohan started Crescendo for a Cause to promote the benefits of music, with a particular interest in bringing music to residents of nursing homes and detention centers. Courtesy of Crescendo for a Cause

Together, they created an organization they call Crescendo for a Cause ( Its mission is to “improve music education in underserved areas and to utilize music performance as a vehicle for advocacy and community service.” 

Near the end of the summer, they carried out their mission by performing for residents in the memory care program at Belmont Village Senior Living in Buffalo Grove.

“We felt jazz was the ideal genre,” Mohan says. “Based on research from various universities, jazz has been identified as having the greatest impact on memory.”

Consequently, at their performance, they played jazz hits from the '50s and '60s by the likes of Nat King Cole, Gene de Paul, and Joe Henderson.

“This is the music that the residents grew up listening to,” Mohan adds. “The emotional content of the jazz music elicits fond memories of their youth that are otherwise locked away.”

They are lining up other performances at area assisted living facilities, including Sedgebrook and The Wellshire retirement communities, both in Lincolnshire.

For both, they plan to play a mix of jazz, classical and modern genres, the pair say. Beckwith plays piano and clarinet, while Mohan plays saxophone and oboe, and they hope to encourage more band members to join them.

Perhaps their most ambitious project is a plan to bring their music to detained teens at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, which they plan to do in September.

“Since many of the kids have never been exposed to music performance and instruments, we hope to integrate some educational aspects,” Mohan says, “such as explanations of different genres and their historical backgrounds.”

They also plan to highlight different instruments that make up an ensemble, and discuss some of the great musical artists that they will be playing and their compositions.

The musicians warm up in front of the memory care residents before the music therapy performance. Courtesy of Crescendo for a Cause

“From a scientific point of view, multiple research studies indicate that music has significant implications on the learning and hearing abilities of at-risk children,” Mohan said, “including profound biological improvements to auditory processing that are essential in day to day communication.

“While one performance will not immediately lead to these changes,” he adds, “we hope that the exposure to music will encourage these children to try engaging more with music once they return home.”

Their mission goes beyond music performances and bringing music therapy to residents and teens.

They are in the process of collecting instruments, music stands and lesson books to be donated to programs that provide free music educational services to underserved children of inner-city Chicago.

They also have organized a fundraiser to support pediatric sarcoma research at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. The initiative, they say, was inspired by the members of the Stevenson fine arts community impacted by pediatric cancer.

Beckwith and Mohan are more than halfway to their goal of donating $2,000. Given that September is childhood cancer awareness month, the pair plans to arrange a music therapy performance for pediatric patients and hopefully make their donation at the same time.

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