I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville from 2001 to 2005; I used to play music most Thursday nights in the back room of the The Spot Bar, to a group of students. The “townies” stayed at the front end of the bar, segregated by class, custom, and self-importance. We shared the gross bathrooms. A stinky solidarity.
I played two benefit concerts for The Harmonium Project this past October and, in the process, I got to know the core group of young visionaries working there. I saw their building and heard about their dreams, but, most of all, I saw their relationship with the town and people of Steubenville.
I didn’t just meet a group of fresh-faced student idealists; I met the reality of their friendship with business owners and tradesmen and drug addicts. Names and faces and real talk. Generosity and the perils of generosity. Hard work.Something different happened when I returned to the back room of The Spot: the “townies” joined the “frannies” and we all grooved. They danced, together. Afterwards, tired and sweaty, the band and I smoked cigs and talked about the blues with bar regulars and student first-timers.
There is something remarkable going on in Steubenville, in the hearts of these young people and their newfound, downtown friends. I consider myself fortunate and deeply blessed to have been a small part of it and I hope to come back someday. Most of all I am moved to have become their friend.