Play It Forward founder Michael Allen Harrison is pictured playing one of the newly donated pianos as Kingwood High students and faculty admire his music.

What a difference it makes when someone asks for help! This is the story of an amazing chain of events that resulted in several new instruments being gifted to Kingwood High School to replace the flood-damaged ones.

It all started when Oregon resident Gary Brown attended a Play It Forward summer concert in July.

The Play It Forward Foundation was started by American new-age musician, songwriter and pianist  Michael Alan Harrison to ensure that students still had musical instruments amid the public school funding cuts for music and fine arts programs.

In August, Hurricane Harvey hit Kingwood. Brown’s daughter, Kelly Wells, happens to be a teacher at Kingwood Middle School. Shortly after the flood, Wells called her parents to express concern that musical instrument replacement might not be a high priority on the overwhelming list of needs. Wells had no idea that her dad had gone to the concert, and she had never heard of Play It Forward.

At the same time, Harrison and his wife, Marietta, were in Oregon watching television, in shock at the devastation in Houston. They were telling each other that they wished they could do something, but like many, struggled with where to even begin.

On the morning of Sept. 1, the Harrisons saw a Twitter post by a local Houston news station. In it, a Friendswood resident was playing his piano while sitting in three feet of water. It broke their hearts, but it dawned on them in that moment – “We can help with instrument donations!”

What happened next is one for the storybooks. Gary Brown contacted Play It Forward, and the rest is history. Play It Forward rallied the Oregon troops and focused on helping Kingwood.

They held an instrument drive. They held a benefit concert in Portland Nov. 21. Wells attended and told the crowd about how Texas was recovering from one of the worst storms in history.

Play It Forward had actually just assembled their brand new board of directors the last week of August – the same week Harvey hit. Harrison said the new board immediately took action and organized a second benefit concert in nearby Camas, Wash., Nov. 19.

Shortly after Harvey, the Harrisons watched in disbelief at the Florida and Puerto Rico devastation from Hurricane Irma and the devastation of the Northern California wildfires. They talked about how to best use their resources to help people across the nation. Marietta said, “Our decision was that we can’t do everything, but we must do something.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, they did more than “something.” They donated two Yamaha grand pianos, four Yahama upright pianos, a drum set, four violins, two cellos and a viola.

Marietta described Brown’s request for instruments as “a bold ask.” After all, it’s not every day that someone has the gumption to cold call and ask for thousands of dollars of instruments. But the Harrisons are immensely glad that Brown did make that phone call. The next time you’re thinking about something, it’s probably a good idea to just ask.

Jacqueline Havelka
Author: Jacqueline HavelkaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am a rocket scientist turned writer. I worked at Lockheed Martin-Johnson Space Center for many years managing experiments on the Space Station and Shuttle, and I now own my own firm, Inform Scientific, specializing in technical and medical writing and research program management. I am a contributing correspondent to The Tribune, a Kingwood resident for 12 years, and proud mom to two Aggie sons.