I first met Lauren and her family when she was only three years old. We hosted a chamber music party at our home, outside, in the mountains of Colorado. Lauren’s father performed at our chamber music party. He is a professor of music at the local university. Lauren’s mother is a flute and piccolo player in the Colorado Symphony. The family was excited as they were pregnant at the time, with Lauren’s little sister Amanda. Along with performing with the chamber orchestra, the father also performed the alpenhorn (think ‘Ricola’ commercials). The sound was amazing as it rolled through the hills. I enjoyed meeting this family immensely. They were a beautiful young family, and I found them very sociable and happy.
About six months after the performance, I got a call from a mutual friend, Dr. Karen Gregg, music director for the local high school. She told me that little Lauren had been diagnosed with Leukemia. The family was devastated, as was I. They weren’t personal friends, but that sweet little girl didn’t deserve this. No one does. I spoke to my wife and suggested that we get her a Teddy Bear. Not just any bear, but a really special one like someone had given our younger son. It was my son’s favorite bear. He had beans in his paws so they were real floppy. This bear was super cute, and hug-gable. However, while we were trying to locate the manufacturer, we realized most kids have a bunch of stuffed animals, and sick kids probably doubly so… No matter how special of a teddy bear we might find, it probably wouldn’t be “the one” and we realized we needed to find something else. Something with real meaning.
Not much later, I came upon the idea of having a piece of music composed for Lauren. It was the perfect idea – something unique, timeless, personal and truly meaningful. I spoke with Karen and asked her thoughts, and if her band would be interested in performing, if we could pull it together. She was! She took the idea to her book club (mostly other teachers and musicians), and they loved it too. Together we worked to find a composer. We lucked into Clint Needham, from Ohio. Clint had recently had twin boys. When we approached him and told him the story he stated, “I have to do this for Lauren and her family. As a father, I can’t imagine what they’re going through”.
Clint put together a beautiful piece of music entitled, “Chase the Morning Sun”. His thought was that no matter how tough life is, each evening know that tomorrow is a new day and you have to Chase the Morning Sun.
The piece was premiered at the Colorado Music Educators conference, in the Grand Ballroom of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, by the Lyons High School band, who had been invited by blind audition.
I had planned on having Lauren and her family ride with the kids on the school bus. It’s about a two hour drive. One of the parents (a mom!) said, “Clark, are you crazy? What if she doesn’t feel well, if they need to leave, if…”. “I have a friend with a limo company. I’ll have him take care of them.” Sounded great! But, that morning, the limo died. The driver, knowing the story got on the phone and was able to obtain a stretch Excursion. This thing was HUGE! Lauren and her family came down like ROCK STARS!
Immediately before the performance, Karen introduced Lauren (and now her little sister Amanda) to the band. I’m sure half the band was crying, for they all knew the story, but this was their first time meeting Lauren. I thought, “Oh no! They won’t be able to perform…” However, the emotion helped them put everything they had into that performance. It was beautiful. The piece included flute and horn solos, in honor of Lauren’s parents. (Lauren picked right up on that!)
After the performance, Lauren looked up at me and said, “Clark, I’m never going to stop smiling!” I was tearful during the performance, and I could barely hold it together. This little girl had been through so much, was still going through chemotherapy, and yet was so sweet and appreciative.
After Chase the Morning Sun, I toyed with the idea of doing other pieces. Over the past four years we’ve done about one piece a year, as a side project to my regular employment and life. I’d formed “Chase the Music” with best intentions and genuine enthusiasm, but hadn’t been able to devote much time to it. This past December, I was granted IRS 501c3 status, and made the decision to put my full energy into this work. My dream became to make Chase the Music one of the premier non-profit in the world, providing healing music for children, opportunities for musicians and beautiful music for the people of the planet.
What strikes me about Chase the Music is its impact. It’s been much bigger than I’d expected. It wasn’t just impacting the children. Their families, the musicians and audiences, have all been deeply impacted. As more people hear about the things we’re doing, and hear the music, the more we’re changing lives for the better.
I am looking forward to the next chapters of Chase the Music. And Lauren, thanks to you, I’m never going to stop smiling either.
..Clark Hodge, Founder, Chase the Music