Voices of Harmony, Part 1

The Kids of Harmony Project

Harmony Project, a Los Angeles-based organization with national affiliates dedicated to music education for youth in low-income communities, has been recognized as one of the most effective arts-based youth interventions in the nation.  The Spirit of Harmony Foundation is proud to be a partner in their live-changing efforts.  Students involved in Harmony Project progralogoms wrote heartfelt essays about their experiences as part of a scholarship competition.  The staff of Harmony Project has shared them with us, and from time to time Music In A Word will post several of them.  Photos are courtesy of Harmony Project and are not necessarily the authors of the essay in which they appear — AM.

I first started Harmony Project when I was about seven years old. I had no idea what music was, no idea what a musician was, and no idea what the long silver stick in front of me was. Ten years later, here I stand. A musician, a mentor, a student. Being a part of Harmony Project has taught me more than I can truly express. Harmony Project has taught me patience, will, 12091584923_c5b9cebe2e_zand dedication. Being a part of the Mentor program has also opened my eyes to things I  never would have seen elsewhere. Teaching other people is never easy, and teaching them music is much less. When they don’t practice, it especially doesn’t get any easier, but with time I learned how to teach, how to be patient, and how to be a good teacher. Being a mentor showed me the struggle professional teachers have to go through, the frustration and the annoyance, and it really made me appreciate my teachers.

I remember when I first started, I didn’t really know other students. Now, I have a family at Harmony Project. I know almost everyone, I eat and laugh and hang out with orchestra members, with my “flute family” as we call ourselves, with other students that play other instruments. It feels really good to walk into a place and be at ease with the other people, to be comfortable and accepted.

I’ve always known what I want to be, always. Being a part of Harmony Project has given me, the desire to keep performing. Although I’ll be majoring in genetic engineering and pharmaceuticals, music will always be with me. I desire to do research studies on the effects of music, to continue with music even after I leave. It has impacted my life, and I fully plan to continue with music and merge it with my love for science. Being a part of Harmony Project has done more than develop my will to succeed, it has given me the chance to dream outside the box I grew up in. It has taught me that through hard work, I can do whatever I put my mind to. I can succeed. The only obstacles in my way are the one I set there for myself, and nothing more.

The teachers inspire me to be better, to go places, to do things I told myself I couldn’t. They encourage me when I’m down, they’re there to listen to any problems I have, whether it be musically or personally. They go beyond the expectations of being a teacher and I love all of my teachers for that because they help me continue towards my goals.

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Being in the Harmony Project has been a blessing to me. It has taught me many valuable lessons in the past eight years. No one really knows what Harmony Project does to its students — it’s more than just a program. Within the Harmony Project, you become the person you are now.

Personally it has done a great impact in my life. It’s such a great experience meeting different people every year and making memories that I will cherish forever. Throughout these past 8 years, not only have I made my parents and teachers proud, but myself as well. I am thankful to each and one of you, for motivating me and supporting me through the rough times, but most important I am thankful for making my dreams possible.

12091653014_488df35caa_zI have grown and matured within myself Harmony Project has taught me responsibility, respect, honesty, loyalty, time management and dedication. All those hours in group class, private lessons, mentee/mentor class, orchestra and Academy has been a privilege. Being in the Harmony Project has brought me a lot of good things. I have gained a lot of self confidence, and I have overcome my fear of performing in front of a lot people. I have become responsible for my own things such as class, and I have learned how to manage my time so that every second counts. It has also helped me see beyond my goals and think outside the box.

In a family there will always be struggles, but music is what brings my family more together. We have made many memories together by attending annual concerts and field trips by learning and experiencing other type of things outside the usual. It’s not every day someone offers us free ticket to go to the Hollywood Bowl. Those are special moments that I will never forget. Not only has the Harmony Project helped me and my family but my community too. Spending the whole day at rehearsals each Saturday is a distraction for me. It keeps my mind focused in school because I know that there are kids out there that look upon me as their role model.

I am proud to say that I am a part of the Harmony Project. I am glad I got the opportunity to experience what others have not in their lives, but in general I am happy for meeting new people whom I now can call family. I am glad and thankful for every teacher who is a part of Harmony Project because they have passed down their knowledge to me, whom I will later on pass on to other students. They have taught me how to become a better person and mentor. I am more than thankful I got the chance to perform in front of a lot of people and overcome my fear. Because of the Harmony Project, I look upon every challenge in my life and take advantage of it.

Thank you Harmony Project for helping me become the person I am now.

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Fifteen curious pairs of eyes glare at me, the naked girl in the middle of the room who is the center of their attention. My glossy eyes refuse to meet their gazes.

“I’m so sorry … ! don’t even know why I’m crying,” I tremble.

I try to regain myself and move on with my speech to the Harmony Project donors, but instead, I blurt incoherent thoughts to fill the time. After a mild applause from the audience, I quickly sit down and freeze.

What did I do wrong?

11088310835_0cf634e3f1_zI start to retrace my words from the speech: When I was in the fourth grade, I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me join the free music program at school. Little did my parents know that years later, I would still be in the program as a violinist. Little did I know that being in Harmony Project would create a bond between students and teachers, a bond that would be inseparable. Coming to a community center miles away from home, four times a week to enhance my violin skills, essentially became a real home for me, a place where love was reciprocated. A place where all tension and drama left the body. A place where creating melodies soothed the broken hearts and the aching minds. A place where friendships are glued together by the waves of notes released from our passionate playing.

Oh! …

I am finally excused to leave the room where I gave my speech. Finally, I can walk away from my humiliation. As I leave and head towards a community concert hosted by my orchestra, I notice my friend sitting on a bench. I wave to him and approach his direction. After he gives me a warm smile, I sit down and listen to musicians perform Dvorak’s American Quartet. With the first notes of the second movement welcoming me to the concert, silent tears fall down my face. As the waves of music flood my ears, I feel at peace, at home. Really at home.

The home I grew up in as a child didn’t expose me to the parcel of emotions I was supposed to feel in my life. Somehow, music created a pathway to find another home that gives me the chance to love and feel loved. This other family I found welcomed me without judgment. The day I knew the significance of this family was the day my heart wept.

And now, the time I have left with them ticks away. All I have left to do is say “Thank You.”

 

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