Cameron Sullivan makes a video of members of Voices in the Village during the monthly dance party at the YMCA in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)

Cameron Sullivan makes a video of members of Voices in the Village during the monthly dance party at the YMCA in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)

Film to feature band for developmentally disabled musicians

The documentary aims to capture the sounds and shared joy of Voices of the Village.

MARYSVILLE — Cameras were rolling while the band played.

A documentary is in the works to highlight Voices of the Village, a band that brings together musicians with developmental disabilities along with friends, family and guest performers.

The Northwest Music Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to pay for an audio recording of the band’s original songs. That turned into plans for a short video documentary and an accompanying soundtrack, said Michelle Dietz, executive director for the nonprofit Village Community Services.

The idea was to make a five-minute film about the band.

Then Elena Haas with Illuminate the Night Pictures got wind of the project. She came in with a bigger vision, Dietz said.

Haas wants to use the short documentary as a springboard to raise money and interest for producing a feature-length documentary, she said. Money could be raised on the film festival circuit and through crowdfunding.

Haas, of Arlington, is the producer and director of the documentary. She’s been interested in Voices of the Village for years, she said.

When she was young, she helped out with Special Olympics. She later got a job teaching acting to adults with disabilities.

She’s been producing films for about eight years. When she saw the request for a filmmaker to work with Voices of the Village, “my heart kind of leapt because I really wanted to see their story get out there. I know the difference music can make.”

Voices of the Village performs up and down the I-5 corridor in Washington, Dietz said. The musicians often play at fundraisers or community festivals such as the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, Marysville Strawberry Festival or Stanwood’s Art by the Bay.

Through a partnership with the Marysville YMCA, Voices also provides music for a public dance once a month.

There are about 30 members, but they don’t all show up to every performance, Dietz said. They do 30 to 40 gigs a year. Guest musicians join in the fun.

“Anybody can come jam with the band,” Dietz said. “In that way, it’s also open to the community.”

Anyone 18 or older can come to dances, and guests are welcome to grab a microphone. There are drums, shakers and tambourines, too. The band has a mix of other instruments, including xylophones and bongos. There are a few talented “air guitar” players in the group, Dietz said.

“You don’t have to be a great musician to be in the band. It’s about the love of performance and the shared joy of making music and the friendships that come from that,” she said. “If anybody was ever in a band before, they know how strong the relationships are with their bandmates.”

The documentary is a treasured project for the band members, Dietz said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of status that comes with playing with the band, and to have that documented in a form that they can share is an amazing thing in their life,” she said.

Sales of the recorded music and the documentary also could raise money for the group. Most of the people who work with Voices are volunteers, but there is a paid artistic director and other costs for transportation, instruments and events.

The team Haas is working with on the film is mostly made up of friends she met while studying at Shoreline Community College, she said. They aim to get the short documentary into festivals later this year so they can gather interest and start raising money for a longer piece.

“I know that music reaches beyond our barriers, and not just for people with disabilities, for all of us,” Haas said. “I know that this story is important. People don’t realize how powerful these events can be.”

To keep track of the documentary and learn about the fundraising effort, go to VOVDocumentary also is on Twitter and on Instagram. People can email, as well.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

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