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The healing power of music

Christie Bolsen | Wednesday, April 6, 2005

If for no other reason, come and listen for Cole.The Notre Dame Glee Club is donating proceeds from “Brothers in Song: Coleman Barker Benefit Concert” Sunday toward the costs of cancer treatment for senior member Cole Barker, who withdrew from Notre Dame last semester when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. A member since his freshman year, Barker’s absence has affected the entire club, which has rallied to his side to offer support throughout his ordeal. Eric Wendler, the first of Barker’s housemates to learn about his condition, said that Barker has served as an inspiration.”He has been the epitome of a courageous human being, never wavering in his faith in God and his resolve to beat the cancer,” Wendler said.Another Glee Club member, Sean Sprigg, agreed there were not enough good things to say about Barker.”Cole was an example to all those who knew him directly when he was at Notre Dame by being a great, upstanding and genuinely nice person,” Sprigg said. “However, right now he can be a shining example of courage and personal faith to all people who may only know of him through this challenge.”Both expressed a sincere hope that the community would come together to show support for him by attending the concert or making donations if they cannot attend. Senior Keith Harwood, who has been Barker’s roommate since sophomore year, also encouraged people to help in any way possible.”He’s a really great guy,” Harwood said. “Any help that people can give would be very appreciated, I’m sure.”The music featured in the concert will include a wide array of genres, including African American spirituals, sea shanties, barbershop arrangements, Notre Dame classics and some of Cole’s favorite numbers from his years in the club. Also performing will be Axis of Octave and the Undertones, two smaller groups within the club that sing arrangements of contemporary songs from groups like Fountains of Wayne and Coldplay.Audience members will also notice another detail during the concert – many of those in the Glee Club have shaved their heads to show their support for Barker. The cluster of bald heads will indicate the extent to which Barker is missed.”This concert is really all about Cole,” said Daniel Lockhart. “When we found out that Cole was diagnosed with brain cancer, we were devastated. He has been such a dedicated member to our organization, as well as our good friend, and this is the very least we can do to help him in his time of need.”Lockhart said this concert was an opportunity for everyone to fight the feeling of powerlessness they had when they found out about Barker’s cancer. Paul Sifuentes, Glee Club president and the main Glee Club member organizing the benefit, added that another purpose of the event was to raise awareness in general within the South Bend and Notre Dame communities.”Cancer is something that is not imaginary,” Sifuentes said. “It affects us and our loved ones.”Barker, who will be here this weekend for the benefit, said that Associate Vice President for Residence Life Bill Kirk, Vice President for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs David Moss have all been fantastic with providing support, even aiding in organizing a trip for his friends to visit him in December. It is the Glee Club, however, that has risen to the challenge of helping him the most, with friends making sure he knows how much he is missed and reminding him that people care about how he is doing.”We call each other brothers, and it is not something we do flippantly,” Barker said. “I feel like I have 60 other guys that I can count like any family member.”Thomas Richardson, another Glee Club member, seemed to sum up people’s opinion of Barker. “He’s friends with everybody,” Richardson said. “If you know him, you understand.”The Glee Club concert will be Sunday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Leighton Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors, $10 for general admission and can be purchased at DPAC or by calling 631-2800.