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 programs 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. Here are links to previous installment. Photos are courtesy of Harmony Project and are not necessarily the authors of the essay in which they appear — AM.
My ears have never betrayed me and they aided me in learning the piano and guitar by ear so by the time I entered the short lived piano class at The Harmony Project I was beyond the level of my peers. However, I quickly learned that “ability” does not equate a purposeful performance. It has been through my years and participation in several of the wonderful opportunities readily available at Harmony Project, that has allowed me truly learn how and why one as a musician, and as a person, performs for an audience.
The first time I learned that music is the result of a collaboration of seen and unseen efforts was through my first group viola class. We were all new to the viola, inevitably our sound was more unique than it was developed and as our first recital was approaching this turned out to depress a couple of members in the class. However, our teacher, Cliff Antoine, guided us and boosted our morale. He demonstrated to us we weren’t to put on an overly extravagant recital, but that it was necessary to set a goal and surpass it every time. This goal could only be attained as a group, so we pushed each other providing practice and dedication to the class as a whole. The music was meant to be shared through each other as comrades for an audience that was composed of our teachers and loved ones. It allowed us to speak in tongues and emotions centuries old as a united front. We told the audience of Tchaikovsky and spoke confidently because of preparation. This soon aided me in Speech and Debate and Leadership at school where communication was the key to success. My teacher and community at Harmony Project have given me the opportunity to practice the art of communication. It has allowed me to see that through building bridges, diverse communities can find common ground.
Though working and boosting morale is vital towards steps like practice that result in a successful recital or community event, it can all go to waste if people do not listen to each other patiently. In this world that’s in constant movement it’s become impossible to have meticulously controlled patience. But this feat is created and repeated in every orchestral session to date. I had learned to listen to other Violas, but I now had to listen to voices that were so foreign to me and my instrument. I was taught that I don’t play with an orchestra but I play in an orchestra. All of my actions were linked with those in my section, orchestra and conductor. Though in life it can be argued that we are our own conductors, I wish to take part in organizations like The Harmony Project in the years to come. Harmony Project has given me a true community that emphasizes self-discipline which has aided me in study habits and preparation for group activities whether it be for an orchestra, recital or for performing a persuasive speech.
The community of teachers, friends and staff that makes up Harmony Project has been one of the most transformative of my life. Through orchestra and group classes, I have learned to listen, encourage and help others. Without Harmony Project, I would have never truly developed the performance and communication skills plan to utilize them in the future through community outreach. And perhaps one day help create another rare community like Harmony Project that helps other young people learn what true companionship and work can create.
I have been in the Harmony Project since I was 10 years old. For me that will be 7 years now, and this program has put me in a different direction in life within those 7 years. I love music and since I was in kindergarten, I would ask the music director, Ms. Moss, if I could play the violin and she said until I am in the 4th grade. Every year though I knew she said until 4th grade. I thought until next year I could start to play violin. Then, every other year I would take my mom to ask the teacher if I can join now because I had gotten older; well, that is what happened in my little mind. Even then, I had the passion to play music although I did not play any. On my 3rd semester in playing music, Ms. Moss told me about Harmony Project and got me an audition because she noticed my passion for music. I believe that she noticed because I would memorize all the music she gave my class and me.
My first day in Harmony Project was in this church by Hollywood and Highland. I nailed the audition. They enrolled to the orchestra and a violin group class. The following semester I moved up to first violins, and I moved up a more advance group class as well. During my time in The Harmony Project, I have improved my skills and advanced into different groups. It took me a while to understand how music can apply to life. Well, playing music and being in the music program taught me many things. I gained a lot of confidence from the program. I built confidence by playing in front of people because it was required to or else I would not have done it due to embarrassment. I also built a better memory while I memorized most of my music. For any type of test, I would always use my confidence and memory to pass them. I hardly fail a test because I always pay attention in class since it is required in music classes to pay attention. The reason is that, in a music class, although the teacher may not be talking to you, it also applies to you.
One thing that I would always thank the Harmony Project for is my communication skills. I would never be able to talk to people as well as I do now without the Harmony Project. I would always spend my time volunteering in the office and the office workers would always make me do phone calls and introduce me to new people occasionally. I spent so much time doing something in the program I didn’t have time to get into trouble. In time it changed the my path in life into a great one. I would consider this program as my foundation into everything I have learned. There are many things I can talk about my life in The Harmony Project since for me its most of it. And I want to also thank the Harmony Project for giving me the opportunities and making my family proud of me.