Finding Harmony

Gage Hendricks gathers the attention of the student body with lunchtime performances.


Keaton Frye

Senior Gage Hendricks sits at his lunch table, playing a song on his harmonica for his classmates. Hendricks has been playing the harmonica for several years and has started to perform t lunches and school events.

Through the general lunchtime chatter and chaos of 4C lunch, another sound can be heard. Above all of the other noise, the gentle sound of a harmonica playing fills the air. A student can be seen lighting up the cafeteria as he breathes through the small instrument. Students watch in amazement and clap as the student finishes his piece. Senior Gage Hendricks looks back at them and stands smiling, proud of his recent performance.

Though Hendricks has only been attending since October, he has already made quite the impression on students and staff alike. His harmonica skills have dazzled audiences at lunch, over the intercom, at assemblies and other school-sponsored events. The skills he possesses are those that sound like they’ve taken a lifetime to form, but in reality, Hendrick’s journey with the harmonica began during the transition between eighth grade and freshman year. The process was challenging at first; however, Hendricks’ history with other instruments helped make it a bit easier.

Senior Gage Hendricks grins and hold his harmonica up in triumph after he finishes one of his lunch performances. Hendricks can be found playing his harmonica during harmonica during 4C lunch nearly everyday. (Keaton Frye)

“I do play the piano,” Hendricks stated. “That was early eighth grade. [It started] with a bell kit that I used to play in band, then transposed that over to the piano, and then the piano to the harmonica.”

Some of the features of the harmonica Hendricks plays have also aided the learning process. 

“The nice thing about the harmonica I play is that instead of having to bend notes, there’s a button you press to make a note a sharp or a flat,” Hendricks explained. 

To grow in his musical ability and just for the general love he has for the instrument, Hendricks practices the harmonica every day. As a result, he has learned to play a variety of different songs. 

“I’m trying to do Christmas [songs] and I know one folk song,” Hendricks said. 

In addition to his daily practice, Hendricks also plays his harmonica almost every chance he gets during the school day. Paraprofessional Paige Ferguson, who works with Hendricks while he is in choir, described his playing habits. 

“Once he gets to his class he’ll play, afterwards he’ll play, at lunch he’ll play,” Ferguson said. “Just any chance he’ll get.”

The most common place where students can spot Hendricks performing is in the cafeteria during 4C lunch. His performances add a nice ambiance to the cafeteria in contrast to the usual yelling and chatter. Senior Louis Jesse sits near where Hendricks performs and mentions his respect for his skills. 

“I think he’s very talented,” Jesse expressed. “He’s playing songs that I think are really hard.”

When he performs, Hendricks tries to get the audience involved as much as he possibly can. Not only does it make the audience feel more connected to his performances, but it also boosts Hendricks’ confidence as he is performing. 

“Sometimes I get nervous,” Hendricks said. “But if everybody is singing along, that really helps. That’s why when I play I say, ‘Guys, everybody sing along with me!’ and they all join in right away.”

Besides the audience, one part of performing that stands out to Hendricks the most is the energy of a performance. 

“You just feel the energy, you know, you get energy,” Hendricks explained. “You can feel the emotions you have based on if you get nervous. It’s different every time.”

Ferguson also mentions how just by watching Hendricks play, one can see the effect the music has on him. 

“He’s very calm [when he’s not playing], but when he does play, he’s very happy,” Ferguson said. “He’s very excited. It’s a very good thing to see that as a para.”

She later describes why having an outlet like this is important for students. 

“There’s a lot going on in school, so sometimes they’ll just get overwhelmed, so having that will help them kind of calm down [and] just kind of make them happy,” Ferguson explained. “Especially if [they’re] doing a lot of work and get stressed. Whenever they get tired and they don’t want to do it, having that will make them enjoy their time here. Give them something so they’re not outlasting themselves.”

Because of its positive impact, in reference to Hendricks and his harmonica, Ferguson had only one statement. 

“I hope he keeps playing,” Ferguson said. 

As for Hendricks’ future with his harmonica, he has one specific goal in mind. Someday, he hopes to play for the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues. 

“I want to play a Blues game one night,” Hendricks said. “We can send [the video of me at the Winter Blast] down to the Enterprise Center, there is a way we can send that.”

Until that day comes, however, students and staff can still hear Hendricks play at lunch, school events and on his YouTube channel, Ryan the Big Weather Radio Fan.