Jefferson Award finalist David Brown is using music to make a difference in central Ohio.

Jefferson Award finalist David Brown is using music to make a difference in central Ohio.

Brown, a one-time Bexley resident who now lives in downtown Columbus, is the creator and director of the Harmony Project, a local choir made up of amateur singers. Last year, the 100-member choir raised $47,000 for nonprofits, gathered 1,800 toys for Toys for Tots and painted and refurbished Blackburn Recreation Center. Of the money raised, $17,500 was donated to an after-school program that keeps children off the streets and provides tutoring and physical education.

Choir members range in age from 12 to 70 and include people from various races, religions and sexual orientations, Brown said.

"It is open to anyone who wants to join," he said.

This year's choir, now with 130 members, is planning to raise money for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, plant 100 trees at Berliner Park for Arbor Day and donate a grand piano to the Lincoln Theatre.

Brown lived in Bexley in the 1980s, ran the Bexley United Methodist Church choir program and taught in the Bexley High School theater department.

"I came to know and love Bexley," he said.

It was at Bexley High School where Brown met 1992 Bexley graduate Josh Radnor, now an actor on the television show "How I Met Your Mother."

The two have stayed friends and worked together in New York City. Brown also renovated a home for Radnor in Los Angeles before moving back to Columbus, Brown said.

Radnor, who first met Brown during an audition for "Oklahoma" at Bexley High School, said he wasn't surprised Brown was named a Jefferson Award finalist.

"I wouldn't be surprised if David were honored with any award ... an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy, the Nobel Peace Prize," Radnor said.

Brown was the choreographer of the high school musical and insisted Radnor play the role of Will Parker.

"For whatever reason he saw something in me," said Radnor, who has donated time to the Harmony Project. He listened to a rehearsal and delivered a pep talk the night before a performance.

"I was very moved by what I was seeing and hearing," Radnor said.

The Harmony Project was based on Brown's work in New York City, where he organized a 150-member boys choir that performed at places like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Participants had to spend time on a community service project each year.

Brown attended Capital University but did not graduate because he moved to New York City to become an actor. He lived in New York for 15 years. Along the way, he fell in love with the work of his choirs and gave up acting.

Brown said he was honored to be a finalist for a Jefferson Award, but the credit should go to the Harmony Project.

"I truly believe that it is the project that should be the nominee," he said.

Brown and the other 19 finalists were to be honored during a luncheon Thursday, April 1.