Naperville teen 'Healing Hearts' with benefit concert
To some, a heartbeat might seem like music.
Pulsing, continuous, rhythmic -- until it pauses, hiccups, skips a beat or comes hauntingly close to stopping altogether.
The music of Jeff Kroma's life nearly stopped when a test turned into heart pain turned into emergency surgery, a 12-day coma, a stroke, seizures and several blood clots. And when Kroma's life came close to ending, the symphony that is the life of his daughter halted, too.
"I witnessed one of his seizures," said 17-year-old Taylor Kroma, a junior at Naperville North High School. "I'll never forget that moment, just seeing my dad being so helpless."
Taylor missed multiple days of school and, with them, even more rehearsals for symphonic orchestra, jazz ensemble, jazz combo, chamber music combo and pit orchestra, in which she plays cello, string bass or electric bass.
During one seizure, Kroma opened his eyes, but cast an empty gaze. Taylor said one doctor thought he was a goner, but another said "he's still in there."
The optimistic doc proved correct, and a team of at least four physicians at Edward Hospital in Naperville ended up saving the 54-year-old Kroma's life in February.
Then, the music in Jeff's life -- and in Taylor's -- could begin again.
"In some ways, the music groups were a way for her to sort of cope with things," said Dana Green, orchestra director at Naperville North, who leads many of the ensembles in which Taylor plays. "When she got back into it, which was slowly, she found a way in which to express some of the things she had inside of her that she wasn't able to in other ways."
Now, Taylor is taking her musical expression of gratitude for the doctors who saved her father's life to another level by planning Healing Hearts with Harmony: A Charity Concert for Edward Hospital at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 19, in the Performing Arts Center at Naperville North High School, 899 N. Mill St.
"I was determined to make something good come out of it," Taylor said about her father's hospital scare, which began with what was scheduled as an outpatient procedure to test if he had a blockage in a vein. "What better way to give back than through a concert."
The free concert will accept donations for the Edward Foundation, the hospital's charitable arm.
"I think it's incredible that a young lady is philanthropic and wants to find a way to recognize those physicians who saved her father's life," said Meghan Moreno, executive director of the Edward Foundation. "It's great that individuals step forward and do this simply because there are needs here at Edward."
Taylor said she hopes to raise between $500 and $600 through the Healing Hearts with Harmony concert. Funding could go toward the Edward Foundation's cardiology fund, toward its Healing Arts program, which supports musicians who perform throughout the hospital, or toward other equipment or technology the hospital needs, Moreno said.
The concert comes during a packed month of musical performances for band, orchestra and choir students at Naperville North. So packed, in fact, that Green double-booked the theater for the show, sharing stage space with the setup for an upcoming choir concert. Yet Taylor has gotten students who perform with their voices, string instruments and wind instruments all involved in Healing Hearts with Harmony.
"She is really passionate about giving back to the hospital and showing her appreciation for everything the hospital did for her father," Green said about Taylor, who plans to study music and become a professor in the future.
Kroma originally thought his daughter could put on a concert for the doctors who helped save his life, but Taylor said that idea proved impractical.
Instead, she wants to come as close as she can to filling the school's roughly 850-seat theater for a show featuring what Green called "the best that Naperville North has to offer musically." A jazz quartet, an 18-piece chamber string ensemble, a vocal duet, a Mendelssohn string quartet, a percussion ensemble, the Painted Noise vocal pop group and a brass quintet all will perform during the show.
"You never see the jazz combo playing with a vocal duet," Taylor said. "I'm hoping that by reaching all across the board it will attract more students."
Taylor said she wants the concert to fill listeners' hearts with hope. She's planning it not only for the lifesaving doctors, but for the patients in dire straits and the family members in the intensive care unit, what she calls a "sad place to be."
She hopes it will offer a welcome break from the "high school mentality" -- the pressure of AP testing, homework, extracurricular activities and relationship drama all going on at once -- in favor of a broader and more thankful perspective.
"I want to instill a sense of hope that everyone can contribute," Taylor said. "I wanted people to understand that they're always capable of giving back."
If you goWhat: Healing Hearts with Harmony: A Charity Concert for Edward Hospital
Who: Musicians from Naperville North High School
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 19
Where: Performing Arts Center at Naperville North, 899 N. Mill St., Naperville
Cost: Free but donations accepted for the Edward Foundation