BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
Harmony School opened in 1974 with four high school students in an old house at 318 N. Grant St. The brainchild of then-25-year-old Steve “Roc” Bonchek and his wife, Barb, the school offered an individualized approach to education, forgoing what Roc calls “all the ‘isms’” that traditionally guide curricula. “I wanted to provide a place where teachers would adapt their teaching style to each kid and not try to fit the kid into a fixed philosophy,” he says.
Forty years later, Harmony now serves about 200 students aged 3–18 in the large two-story building that was once Elm Heights School. More than 2,000 students have attended the unusual school, including a significant number of second-generation Harmony kids whose parents were among its earlier graduates. Roc, now 65, still heads the school, which has no strict lesson plans or standardized expectations, focusing instead on helping each child grow academically, socially, and emotionally.
The school will celebrate its 40th anniversary, in true Harmony style, September 26–28 with a weekend of communal music making, dancing, games, a pitch-in dinner, and a campout, all free and open to the community.
“Harmony School — Still Rockin’ at 40” is the theme for the event, which begins on Friday, with parties at The Players Pub and Rhino’s Youth Media Center. The next day is Harmony’s annual Extravaganza, a fundraiser on the school grounds featuring carnival-style games, face painting, a bounce house, and a silent auction. Commemorative T-shirts will also be available, designed by Barb and local artist and Harmony alum Joel Washington.
The party really gets rocking Saturday night when the festivities shift to Loesch Farm on Bloomington’s west side. Attendees are encouraged to bring tents, instruments, and a potluck dish to accompany the pizza and salad provided by Pizza X.
Comedy Attic host Brad Wilhelm will serve as emcee for the entertainment, which will include fiddle music, kid-friendly rock duo Glitter Brains, and square dancing. Hayrides, a bonfire, and the creation of a time capsule will round out the evening, with everyone invited to camp overnight. A Sunday morning breakfast and closing ceremonies at the farm will complete the event.
There is no cost to attend and all are welcome, but participants are asked to register in advance here.