The woodlands surrounding Hawley are quiet and meditative. As one moves inside, the sounds of the busy roadway are blocked out by the surrounding testudo of trees and foliage. The sounds of wind …
The woodlands surrounding Hawley are quiet and meditative. As one moves inside, the sounds of the busy roadway are blocked out by the surrounding testudo of trees and foliage. The sounds of wind passing through the leaves and the songs of birds are dominant. Beginning on July 2, 2021, the woods began humming with even sweeter sounds thanks to the collaborative efforts of many individuals and those with the daring to dream.
Harmony in the Woods is an intimate outdoor entertainment venue located on a 14-acre parcel of forestland off Route 6 in Hawley. The venue grew out of a long-held dream of Henry Skier, the 2021 recipient of the Ben Franklin Community Service Award. Music has been in Skier’s heart for a long time.
Before there was Harmony in the Woods, there was Harmony Presents, a series that operated out of the Boiler Room at the Hawley Silk Mill. That was where he met his longtime collaborator and artistic director of Harmony in the Woods Jill Carletti.
There was a myriad of reasons behind the creation of Harmony in the Woods. The venue serves as Skier’s way of giving back to the community, as well as an avenue for others to pursue their dreams.
Skier recalled an anecdote from his childhood at Camp With-A-Wind in Waymart, PA. He tried out for the role of Curly in the play “Oklahoma!” along with two others. Although his acting ability was not sufficient to get him the part, the minor setback awakened another attribute within him
“I realized that since I didn’t have that talent, I was a good searcher of talent for others, to find people like Jill and then for Jill to help me to find people who could perform,” said Skier. “Not necessarily local performers, but those are on their way up.”
Harmony Presents has acted as a springboard for many artists in the past, including bluegrass artist Billy Strings, Indie folk duo “The Sea The Sea” and comedian Jordan Rock.
Music isn’t the only thing at Harmony in the Woods. Organized as a charitable 501(c)(3) organization, the foundation is dedicated to ensuring its programming is in line with core values of environmental stewardship, arts accessibility and educational enrichment. The Foundation for Harmony Presents has other cohorts that are dedicated to enhancing and extending the founding vision. These include HarmonyTALK™, a podcast series featuring interviews of people with fascinating ideas and achievements; “In My Wildest Dreams,” a video book of interviews of people whose wildest dreams have come true; and the Ben Appelbaum Dreamers, who offer people of all ages an opportunity to help develop their dreams with the wisdom and success of a faculty of doers.
One of the oft-overlooked parts of dreams is that they require a lot of hard work to supplement them. The project wouldn’t have gotten where it is today if it weren’t for a diverse pool of talents “harmonizing” and working together. The site’s project manager Ned Sader knows all about it.
Sader and the crews worked for over two years in building the site. In taking on the project, they were instructed to make as little impact on the landscape as possible.
“We were able to take out about 16 trees total, but also be able to be very smart on how we brought the infrastructure in,” said Sader.
Fiber-optic cable was kept underground to ensure the site had powerful WiFi and still retain its untouched look. Lighting also proved to be a challenge due to code issues. To circumvent this, crews placed the lighting on wires suspended between trees, rather than affixing the lights directly to them. An amphitheater that seats close to 150 people was built directly into an existing hillside, overlooking the stage.
The site employed a group of mostly local contractors and businesses, including Dakan Enterprises, Kiley Associates, American Fence Company, Wallis Electric of Carbondale, Harrison Signs, PennTeleData, Adams Hardscape and Magdon Music in Olyphant. Leeward was the site’s primary contractor.
When the project was being built, it had an impact of nearly $500,000 on the local economy—all this during a pandemic.
Both Skier and Sader hope that the positive impact on Hawley will continue to grow. As guests attend the events, they’ll likely be checking out the shops around town and getting food from local restaurants.
“Whether they stop at the Cocoon to pick up stuff to eat, whether they stop at the Wallenpaupack Brewing Company to pick stuff up to eat, whether they stop at the IGA or wherever they stop, people are like, ‘Where did you go to see the show?’ That word of mouth gets out there and as you know, word of mouth is your greatest marketing tool,” said Sader.
While Harmony Presents has changed venues throughout the years, Skier believes that the pristine woods will be its permanent home.
“I think that because of the nature of what we’ve done, the resources that it has taken to build it, I think it’s a home, a wonderful home,” said Skier.
Henry Skier has made a lifetime of giving back to the community and helping others achieve their dreams. As president of AMSkier Insurance and AMSkier Reinsurance, insuring children’s summer camps throughout the world; or as the dreamer who built Harmony in the Woods, to foster up-and-coming artists, Henry is committed to cultivating relationships and fostering strategic partnerships. This has led to his lifelong commitment to philanthropic initiatives that help children and young adults from underserved communities access life-changing, overnight summer camp experiences, and making dreamers become doers.
The gathering planned for November 4, 2021 has been rescheduled as an outdoor concert at Harmony in the Woods on Sunday, July 10, 2022.
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