Member Andrea Green is a Music Teacher, Music Therapist, Composer, Playwright and Emmy winner of the 2015 documentary On the Other Side of the Fence. She took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Editor Alina Celeste about her work, the power of music and her upcoming plans.
Photo: Producer Andrea Green and Film Maker Henry Nevison after winning the Mid-Atlantic Emmy
Alina: You write musicals in part to help facilitate relationships between children who are disabled in some way and kids who are not. Is that how On the Other side of the Fence was written initially?
Andrea: Initially. Exactly.
Alina: So was the documentary already in progress when you started working on On the Other Side of the Fence or did that happen afterward?
Andrea: That happened over thirty years later.
Andrea: Yeah! When I first started working as a music therapist, On the Other Side of the Fence, was created to bring together children from the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Germantown Friends School, both in Philadelphia. Both schools were searching for a way to bring their students together in partnership and weren’t sure whether these very different youngsters could form relationships and equally benefit from the experience- but there was a desire from both sides for that to happen. They had tried other ways like recreation games and visits for reading stories and things like that. It was all well and good but many people were saying that they didn’t want to continue with this effort. That they didn’t think it was working out. They thought it was one-sided and they wanted the kids from both sides to have a mutually meaningful experience.
I was sitting in a staff meeting at the HMS School back in 1982 when the decision was being made to stop the visits between the two groups of children and that is when I felt compelled to do something that could work. I saw the image of two farms with a big strong fence in between and the words “On the Other Side of the Fence” came to mind. So I raised my hand and suggested “ How ‘bout I write a musical”?
Then four years ago I met filmmaker Henry Nevison and he came to the HMS school to learn about the musical and to observe my process as a music therapist. Henry wanted to make a documentary about the power of this work to foster empathy and acceptance, so we began our journey to make this happen. We also enlisted the collaboration of Kerri Hanlon and Howard Blumenthal. Then we conducted a Kick Starter and in thirty days we raised eighty-seven thousand dollars.
Andrea: Yeah. It was really amazing.
Andrea: It’s very exciting, I mean, I knew that this was going to be powerful because of the nature of the children that are in it. But also what they were saying about how the music brought them together and how these relationships had formed and deepened. We interviewed people that had been in this project many years ago who talk about how they had their life changed from being a part of this experience. So I knew it was going to have that power but I didn’t realize to what extent, what was going to happen next.
Then the film got made and started to win all these awards and you know, all these years, I’ve been trying to get people to be interested in this project and these musicals. All of a sudden, the film just kind of shines the light on it.
Now I’m getting all this interest in the musical and different aspects on how to utilize the musical…like they say it doesn’t just happen overnight, right?
Alina: Right, right. It happens over ten, twenty or thirty years and then overnight.
Andrea: Exactly! The good thing is that over the years, I’ve created all these other musicals that are also kind of surfacing now or getting more awareness now just because people are starting to know more about me and my musicals; and the film really helped that in a big way.
Alina: Were you part of the whole process to apply for the festivals and the awards? You know, were you seeking out contest to enter the documentary into or was that other people on the team?
Andrea: I was pretty much working as a team with Henry, Kerri and Howard. We all contributed with our expertise and talents and we still are. Kerri Hanlon, who is the public relations member of the team, was pivotal in getting the film picked up by American Public Television which is the distributor for the film right now. Then the film got made and started to win all kinds of awards …the Mid-Atlantic Emmy, and the NY International Film Festival Gold award, the Gold Telly and a United Nations Humanitarian Award.
Alina: Oh, congratulations. That’s a big deal.
Andrea: Yeah! It’s on different stations across the country. Now we really want to work on how teachers in schools and universities can use the film with their students to foster empathy and acceptance. We are creating an educational model where the film will be the vehicle along with a curriculum to teach tolerance. It’s not just about disabilities.
Alina: Well, that’s exciting. That’s a really great next step.
Andrea: Yes, and Henry and I are now working on another film. It’s called The Return of Halley’s Comet, based on my musical by the same name.
Last summer I went to Estonia, where the NGO Generation Theater Company translated The Return of Halley’s Comet and toured it throughout their country. They used the musical to begin a dialogue with their audiences, on the subject of prejudice, peace and understanding our differences.
There are just so many things.
Last summer I went to the island of St. John under the support of the ASCAP Foundation and produced my musical THE RAINBOW SEA at the St. John School of the Arts.
And speaking of new developments, I am producing my first children’s music cd with me as the featured artist, premiering in 2016 at the Children’s Music Network Conference!
Alina: Wonderful. So now people are calling you and saying, can you come do this, can you come do that…
Andrea: Yes! It really is nice to be called. It’s also nice to be prepared and to have a solid body of material that is ripe and ready to be used! Hopefully, you can see yourself clearly and know what you have to offer. You talked about it in your branding workshop; [At the CMN Conference] being able to really look clearly and plan it out and make things happen yourself because so many times we either hold ourselves back or we avoid certain things that we think we can’t do or we’re insecure about.
All these years for me, I walked that fine line between being an educator, being a music therapist and being a professional musician; and in some ways I was taking myself seriously but I don’t know if I completely, really, until recently, just realized how much ability and talent I had and really took that and believed in it and didn’t hold back. I stopped making excuses.
Alina: Sometimes that takes longer than you think it should, but when it happens, it’s only right.
Andrea: That’s right. Just keep the light shining and reach out to help people in any way you can.
Alina: Of course.
Andrea: Just keep going.
Listen to a new song by Andrea, (Everybody is) One of a Kind below.
To learn more about Andrea and her work, check out her website.