Voices of Harmony, Part 3

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 logoprograms 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.

“Let’s stand so we can be ready to start.” It is nine thirty on a Sunday morning at St. Thomas the Apostle Church. The choir starts to sing, and I begin to play a melodious song for the Mass while the priest walks toward the altar. I look at Jesus in the cross and feel happy to share this talent with everyone else and Him. The flute has allowed me to experience many magical moments such as this one and influenced my actions throughout the years. Harmony Project has helped me recognize my future goals and developed my ability to overcome obstacles, especially in my school work.

7883398550_513d3bc66f_zHarmony Project has led me to recognize my future goals for high school and college. As I am soon graduating high school, I know my job is to continue to be involved with my school community through playing my flute in the Liturgical Choir and in events such as Heritage Week and a donor dinner. Harmony Project has allowed my family and me to look forward to events such as concerts and rehearsals that allow us to spend time together as a family. I have come to realize that I still want to continue playing my flute in college in orchestras and bands because it makes me happy, keeps me motivated to improve my skills, and will continue to set concerts that my family and me can experience.

I have been able to develop my ability to overcome obstacles in my school work by developing qualities such as persistence, determination, and hard work with the help of Harmony Project. When I have trouble understanding a class, I can accept that not everything will be easy for me at first, just as learning to play the flute was a challenge because of the difficulty of getting a sound in it without spit flying everywhere, figuring out how to read music, and playing without slouching to produce a supported sound. Knowing that I wasn’t successful at first, I feel determined to try even harder by spending more time studying for that class, asking the teachers lots of questions in order to understand the material, and putting more effort in paying attention to the lectures. I know this is because the flute has shown me that it gets better when you practice more and more. With the flute, practice led me to produce clean sounds, learn to read the music, and create a better posture. Now, whenever I have a challenge to accomplish whether it is in
school or in anything else, I am sure I can achieve it because I have experienced the journey before and know it can be done.

Thanks to Harmony Project, I’ve had the opportunity to learn the flute, which helped me realize that I want to continue playing in college and that I can face a problem knowing that I can overcome it with determination and hard work. I’ve learned that one can never stop learning. Perseverance is Key! I cannot wait to experience more magical moments with the flute and the lessons it can teach me.

Without Harmony Project and its spectrum of programs, I would not be the person and musician that I am today. I started the program during my later years of middle school and have participated since. Not only has the staff seen me grow and mature, but also I have seen myself grow and mature. I started the program not knowing anyone.

I consider myself to be quite introverted, but being at Harmony Project changed it all; it changed me. Now, although I am not loud and obnoxious I am not afraid to speak up or have my voice heard, or even have my music heard. I was always being told to “play out” because I was insecure about my sound. The insecurity of my music playing was a reflection of who I was as a person. However, since joining the Harmony Project, not only has my sound and tone improved but so has my personality.

The Harmony Project has given me more than just free lessons, instruments, and ensembles. I have received free life lessons and advice, unasked support from the wonderful staff, and another guidance counselor. Basically, the Harmony Project provide me with another family that is musically talented.

Not only has Harmony Project enhanced my musical talents but it has also enhanced my personality. For the last few years, I have committed myself to several extra curricular programs. I have been a part of the Hip-Hop Orchestra conducted by Diane Louie, which trained my ear, the Jazz Band with Amos Delone where I got to explore soloing. I was also given the opportunity to partake in the first Harmony Project Academy where I was taught music history, theory, and ensemble playing. I am currently part of the Hollywood Youth Orchestra as well as a mentor. Mentoring has truly made me see another side to music. Not only did I become a teacher but a mentor, my job is to lead by example and inspire my mentee. Becoming a mentor has made me double think my actions as in what I say and do.

At times my schedule has been hectic and full but because I bit off more than I can chew, I learned the value of budgeting my time, as well as being able to make executive decisions that will ultimately benefit me in the end. As children we tend to always depend or rely on our parents, but in this case I wanted to rely on myself with my mother’s support. Having to decide which classes to add or drop, whether to continue with a certain teacher or not- all of these experiences have benefited me and have helped me mature on many levels. At Harmony Project we are not treated as children but as respected musicians. The values the community encompasses have made an impact in my life that it has become part of my values.

Harmony project has definitely had a positive impact on my life. It is an amazing opportunity that I cherish so much. I have been attending Harmony Project since I was referred eight years ago. My first class was at the church in Hollywood and Highland. I had never been in a group class before so it was a very different experience. I was shy but very eager to learn how to play. I didn’t know anyone .My first teacher was Michellina and I thought she was amazing!

7883420070_5ac5b97fbe_zYears passed and the program was moving from location to location. The only class I had was group class. I slowly started making new friends and became less and less shy. I became more confident with the violin and a little in life.Taking violin classes weekly has gives me a lot of responsibility. From the little things such as bringing a pencil to the big one such as practicing. Many times I have suffered the consequences of not practicing or forgetting my music. Because of these little mistakes I have grown to always preparing myself for  things in life. I became more and more prepared for violin class.

But not only in violin, but also in school. I began to do every problem of my homework instead of skipping the ones I didn’t know. I started to ask my teachers for help, just like I would in violin class if I didn’t get a couple notes. Things became were becoming a lot easier. My chores at home were becoming a routine just like practicing.

I can’t picture my life without Harmony Project and as I go to college it will be difficult to not wake up at 8 am for orchestra. I want to thank everyone who runs Harmony Project because it truly changed my life for the better.
My father has always reminded me of two things: one, I should never forget where I come from  and two, I must thank the people who have helped me get where I am today. I cannot express enough gratitude to every teacher, program director, and member involved at Harmony Project. Being a part of Harmony Project for over six years has taught me important life lessons that will most certainly help me throughout the next chapter in my own life. I do not just receive music classes; I received the guidance and support needed to succeed. Harmony Project has helped me blossom as an individual and a member of my community.

The Harmony Project program has helped me develop my work ethic. Playing an instrument is difficult. There are no tricks to learning how to play an instrument. It is all about practice. I  sometimes have a difficult time trying to learn new music or making sure my sound does not  crack in the high register. I must admit it does get frustrating when I cannot play something, but it is rewarding when I finally get it. Harmony Project has taught me the cause and effect of hard work. If I really want to accomplish something, I must work tirelessly to achieve it.

This lesson has been translated in my work at school. This year I decided to take AP Calculus. After failing the first two quizzes, I soon realized that calculus was something I had to focus on
more. Like learning new music, I did my calculus homework step by step remembering the information my teacher had given me. Like playing my flute, I practiced math problems each night to improve. Like preparing for a jury, I prepared flashcards on everything I had learned. Like performing in a recital, I felt overjoyed when I got an A minus in the class. My work at Harmony Project translates itself to the work I do in my school and community.

Harmony Project has also helped me become involved in my community. I am a part of a huge church community at St. Thomas the Apostle. I grew up as a Catholic and I value my faith, but as I was getting older I wanted to become more involved in my church. My father introduced me to the choir director at my church and told him I could play an instrument. Whenever I play in mass I truly feel a part of our liturgies. I feel blessed when I play the flute in my church. Harmony Project has helped me give back to my community with the gift of music.

Now as I am graduating high school, I want to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer. Because of the support from Ms. Amy and all of Harmony Project, I feel prepared to embark on a new journey to college. Harmony Project is one of the reasons I can call myself a first generation college student and for that I am eternally grateful.