ROCKS students make a joyful noise

Denise Hartse
Star Staff Writer

Children’s voices joined in harmony as they sang a patriotic medley of songs for audiences at local banks, Holy Rosary Healthcare and Billings Clinic-Miles City this summer.

The children, under the direction of Joyce Vera, program coordinator for the Raising Our Community Kids Safely (ROCKS) program, were attendees of the ROCKS Summer Recreation program.

The theme for the first week of the summer program at ROCKS was “Rockin’ at ROCKS” and the children were doing just that on June 21, when all of the students in the program began learning the summer’s music selection, a patriotic medley titled “Song of America.”

Vera said the young performers enjoyed the music so much they surprised her by learning the entire first segment.

”All of the kids learn the music and rehearse on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” said Vera, who also works with the Custer County District High School Choral Department during the school year.

The children receive a warm reception when they sing.

“Without the community, this program [ROCKS] wouldn’t be anything,” said Vera. “I think the community is proud of this program and they open their doors to us.”

“Holy Rosary Healthcare supports us throughout the year and they [the employees] wait for our kids to come out and sing,” Vera said. “At Billings Clinic, if they haven’t heard from me by the first of December they call to make sure we’re on their calendar.”

The children sing at the hospital, clinic and banks in the summer and in December. Vera said that during the school year, the youngsters have homework to do during the ROCKS After School Program, so they don’t have as much time to rehearse, but they do perform during the holiday season.

This summer, the young vocalists learned the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine hymns and a medley of other patriotic songs. Their accompaniment is back up music recorded on Vera’s iPod and the group travels with a speaker. Transportation is on the ROCKS bus.

The children performed at the new First Interstate Bank and toured the facility on July 24, then sang at and toured Stockman Bank on July 25. On Aug. 3 they sang at Holy Rosary Healthcare and followed that with a performance at Billings Clinic-Miles City on Aug. 4.

“We start our Christmas music rehearsals in November,” Vera said. “We sing at all of the banks’ open houses and if we can, we also sing at Holy Rosary and the Billings Clinic. We get out to sing as much as possible.”

(Contact Denise Hartse at or 406-234-0450.)