The special sound of the harmonica

Courtesy photo

Gary Allegretto will perform at the Cortez Cultural Center and at an evening house concert on Saturday, June 30. See an upcoming Community Calendar for details.

By Journal staff writer

Carrying with him, sometimes thousands at a time, Gary Allegretto gifts harmonicas and shares his love of music with people all over the world. He has helped children in Haiti and New Orleans, and he calls himself the “harmonicowboy!”

That’s right a “harmonicowboy.”

The Cortez Cultural Center will host Best of the West award winner Allegretto for a concert and harmonica lesson Saturday, June 30.

Allegretto will perform, then teach students of all ages how to play the harmonica with his “quick learn method,” according to a press release from the Cortez Cultural Center.

The event begins at noon with a performance followed by an hour lesson by Allegretto that will entail learning four songs.

Included in the $20 ticket price, event attendees will receive a Hohner Harmonica with a music booklet, award winning entertainment and expert instruction.

The event is for the whole family, adults and children ages five and up.

Allegretto got his start in the music industry when he learned to play the harmonica at 5 years old. Since then he has toured internationally and won multiple awards and Grammy considerations.

His musical talent took a benevolent turn in 1998 when he began the “Harmonikids Foundation,” a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides the joy of music to children in need worldwide.

Harmonikids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing harmonicas and the joy of music to special needs children. The program gives harmonicas to children with a wide range of physical or emotional disadvantages and teaches them to play simple songs through easy instruction and gentle encouragement.

“The results of the Harmonikids program have been heartwarming and occasionally miraculous,” Allegretto said.

“Often these children are learning to cope with what they can no longer do and what they no longer have whether it is physical, material or emotional,” he added.

Allegretto consistency links the passion for his music to his passion for helping people and bringing music into the lives of young and old, his music and his yearning to teach is indiscriminate.

“I’ve even instructed a 95-year-old man how to play the harmonica,” Allegretto said proudly.

During much of his international travels, helping those in need has consumed much of his time abroad.

Allegretto has found a fulfillment in teaching that is second to none, and his passion has taken him all over the world, including Haiti.

“Music provides a sense of achievement and self confidence,” Allegretto said. “Music is a joyous and lasting gift, and the harmonica is a potential lifelong companion or friend.”

Sometimes, a little music is all it takes to lift the spirits of a person which is why Allegretto has dedicated his life in traveling to share his special gift.

“Children are irresistibly drawn to the harmonica,” Allegretto said. “They immediately relate to its size, simplicity, portability and, most of all, it’s deeply personal and warm sound.”

“The instrument becomes an extension of their own voice and a wonderful means of creativity and self expression,” he added.

Reach Paige Blankenbuehler at

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