“A public-health professional created the Harmony Project in 2001, believing that quality music instruction could be an effective tool for building healthier communities and deflecting youth from the temptations of drugs and gangs. Today, the program annually serves 750 young people from low-income families in Los Angeles’ central and south neighborhoods.
The year-round program targets children as young as age 6, providing them with instruments; group lessons; ensemble, orchestral, or choir experiences; and trips to music concerts—all at no charge. As long as participants hold up their end of the bargain—caring for their instruments, practicing, and attending sessions regularly—they can stay in the program through high school. “Commitment” rather than “talent” is the determining factor for continued participation, Executive Director Myka Miller explains. Because Harmony Project offers lessons and ensembles at multiple sites around the city, the program remains accessible, even as students change schools or move.
This ambitious effort is made possible, in part, through strong partnerships with community organizations. One of their major partners, the Los Angeles Philharmonic helps fund one of the youth orchestras. The Expo Center, a recreation facility, provides space for orchestra rehearsals, along with free family memberships so that parents and siblings can swim or use the center’s computers while a child rehearses. The Los Angeles Community College provides additional lesson space, orchestra rehearsals, and facilities, while exposing students and families to a college environment. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond-the-Bell administration provides musical instruments, bus transportation, and supervised use of facilities. In addition, the RAND Corporation is developing a longitudinal research study to evaluate the program.
More than 75 percent of students’ parents reported that the Harmony Project has improved their child’s grades, behavior, and mood. By giving young people a focus and purpose—along with exposure to new friends, experiences, and role models—the Harmony Project is guiding young people’s lives on a positive trajectory.
In fact, some program graduates are attending college on music scholarships.”
“It takes $10,000 to arraign and $30,000 to incarcerate one juvenile in this country. With $40,000, you could give private lessons to 40 kids for a year or class lessons to 80 kids. Do the math.”Dr. Margaret Martin Founder