In harmony with the environment: Musical group teaches students about recycling, anti-bullying

As part of the Harlingen Concert Association’s educational outreach program, Harlingen and San Benito students were able to see a performance by Vocal Trash, a group that promotes green sustainability and anti-bullying. (Courtesy photo)

HARLINGEN — For a little more than two decades, “Vocal Trash” has been inspiring their audience to protect the environment through performances that blend popular music and urban dance.

Whether it’s discarded toolboxes repurposed into guitars or unwanted PVC pipes transformed into drums, this high-energy group helps rescue items from landfills and puts them to use.

The group conducted its first virtual performance on Thursday for nearly 1,000 elementary students from the Lee Means Fine Arts Academy in Harlingen and San Benito’s Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy.

“We travel around the world and we talk about saving our planet, but we do it a little differently,” Vocal Trash member Kelsey Rae said. “We do it through music and dance.”

The performance was hosted by the Harlingen Concert Association (HCA) and is part of its educational outreach program.

The volunteer-led nonprofit organization has been in the community for more than 87 years.

“One of our favorite and probably one of the most important things that we get to do is provide student outreach opportunities in the form of mass classes and concerts,” HCA educational outreach coordinator Julie Ng-Castillo said. “We are able to do all of this with no charge to the students thanks to our many generous concert season sponsors, which are made up of individuals and businesses in the community.”

Vocal Trash sang and danced along to a variety of songs that spread messages of peace, love, anti-bullying and environmental protection.

“I got so many messages from the principals and teachers afterwards saying how much they loved this and that the kids really needed to hear these messages,” Ng-Castillo said. “I think they really do inspire anyone who watches them, whether they’re kids or adults, to help care for the planet and try to be creative in figuring out ways to repurpose items.”

In between performances, question and answer opportunities were held for students and teachers.

Students said they thought the group was creative in making their instruments and teachers thanked the group for spreading inspirational messages with their class.

“We had a wonderful time today, and though it is much different to do it over Zoom, it was still nice to see the kids on screen,” Rae said. “We hope they’re feeling inspired to save the planet and lift one another up with love.”