December 8, 2015
During the month of November, the Harmony Program was featured in the New York Philharmonic’s Playbill. In “A Life-Changing Musical Journey” Madeline Rogers describes the Harmony Program’s collaboration with the New York Philharmonic and Philharmonic Jr. Read the article below:
A Life-Changing Musical Journey
By: Madeline Rogers
Through Philharmonic Academy, Jr., the Orchestra’s musicians share their knowledge and expertise to inspire New York-area pre-college musicians and music lovers.
The New York Philharmonic has been inspiring children for decades with its Young People’s Concerts, founded in 1924, and in-school education programs, which just celebrated a 20th anniversary. Such outreach went global in 2014 with the inauguration of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership, through which Philharmonic musicians travel regularly to China to instruct and inspire the next generation of orchestral musicians. This was the first in a growing New York Philharmonic Global Academy portfolio, which now includes partnerships with the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
That led Philharmonic administrators to ask themselves, “What are we doing in our own backyard?” according to Theodore Wiprud, the Philharmonic’s Vice President for Education, The Sue B. Mercy Chair. The result was Philharmonic Academy, Jr., which partners with schools and nonprofits to bring the Orchestra’s resources to local kids.
Philharmonic Academy, Jr., currently comprises two partnerships that, at first glance, seem worlds apart. The Harmony Program is an eight-year-old nonprofit that brings music training to children growing up in the city’s communities that have limited access to music education. Based on Venezuela’s famous El Sistema program, it targets kids with no prior music education, and provides them with instruments and three years of top-quality, after-school lessons—six to ten hours a week—to prepare them for the city’s competitive upper schools and youth orchestras. “We want these kids to be exposed to excellence, so we train them intensively and introduce them to the highest caliber musicians in the world, says Anne Fitzgibbon, Harmony ‘s executive director. “That’s where the Philharmonic comes in.”
Twenty miles north, in Scarsdale, the 70-year-old Hoff-Barthelson Music School offers comprehensive music education to children, from preschool through high school. Its Festival Orchestra was recently named one of the country’s ten best high school orchestras by the New York State Council on the Arts, and each year anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the school’s advanced students enter some of the country’s most prestigious conservatories. The primary goal, though, is not to produce professional musicians, but rather “to turn out the literate audiences of the future,” according to Joan Behrens Bergman, Hoff-Barthelson’s executive director. She also points out that despite the school’s location in one of New York’s most affluent suburbs, “many of our kids come from schools with subsidized lunch; we dole out about $170,000 a year in financial aid.”
Both partnerships, Wiprud explains, benefit from “the Philharmonic’s unparalleled abilitiy to give kids an inside view of what is required to become a top-level orchestra player, and to inspire them to go for that.” Each partnership offers some combination of master classes, coaching, and mentoring, tailored to the needs of the schools and their students. At Harmony, the centerpiece is an intensive, daylong master class in which more than 100 students of all levels, ages 9 to 14, come together in a large ensemble. The day begins with Philharmonic musicians coaching the kids in sectional rehearsals and culminates with the Philharmonic members sitting alongside the young musicians in a public performance. The newest addition to the Harmony Program began last year. “We wanted to do something for our most promising students,” says Anne Fitzgibbon. Thus was born the Harmony Program All Stars. Rigorous auditions, adjudicated by Philharmonic musicians, identified eight All Stars who were invited to attend a Young People’s Concert and a Philharmonic rehearsal, and meet Music Director Alan Gilbert. The grand finale was a day of coaching by Philharmonic musicians and a public performance at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium.
The Hoff-Barthelson activities focus on the Festival Orchestra’s spring concert—one of five offered each year. In 2016 Sibelius’s Second Symphony is on the spring calendars both of the New York Philharmonic (May 12-14) and of the student orchestra (June 11). In preparation for their performance, Festival Orchestra members will be coached in sectional rehearsals by Philharmonic members, who will also sit in during the run-through. The kids will also attend a Philharmonic rehearsal and a performance of the work. This new partnership builds on a 20-year-long relationship that includes the Elaine Stamas Residency, a daylong event at which Philharmonic musicians coach the school’s chamber groups and then perform chamber music for them. “The kids are so fortunate to benefit from the expertise of the Philharmonic musicians,” says Bergman. “As novices it is quite remarkable to be coached by such seasoned professionals.”
Philharmonic members who participate in the Academy feel privileged, too. Bass Trombone George Curran, active in the Harmony Program, explains: “I love to see the next generation learn to enjoy music. The look on their faces when they’re working together and finding new ways to express themselves is so rewarding.” Curran, who holds a bachelor’s in music education—a rarity for a to-level orchestra musician—worked with 15-year-old Justin Laurenceau, a 10th-grader at Brooklyn’s James Madison High School who aspires to become a member of a major orchestra. Last summer he took a step toward that goal by auditioning for the very competitive New York Youth Symphony. Although the official mentoring was over, Curran continued to speak with Justin and his mother as the audition approached. Justin, who was invited to sit in on rehearsals for the august ensemble, feels the audition process was “a great experience,” and says Curran’s teaching helped him through it: “He gave me more confidence to play for a large audience.”
Again, Harmony’s goal isn’t exclusively to produce professional musicians. Anne Fitzgibbon believes that “When music is part of kids’ everyday routine, they develop habits that will serve them well outside the classroom: listening, collaboration, perseverance.” Harmony student Wellington Jimenez, 13, a violist from Washington Heights, has learned those lessons, and more. Although he dreams of becoming an automotive engineer, “music is always going to be my right hand. I learned that music isn’t just entertainment; music is actually a feeling.”
His Philharmonic mentor, violinist Hae-Young Ham, glows when she talks about what working in the program has meant to her: “Wellington is a friendly, curious, and willing student, and I’ve enjoyed working with him and all the other students. My musical journey has been so life-changing that I want to share my experiences with young people. It is extremely gratifying to see music making a difference in their lives.
—Madeline Rogers, former Director of Publications at the Philharmonic, is a writer and creative services consultant to nonprofits.
For more information on the New York Philharmonic, visit www.nyphil.org
For more information on Playbill, visit www.playbill.com
December 7, 2015
This year the Harmony Program is collaborating with the world’s preeminent classical music publishing house, G. Schirmer, in the production of original repertoire for beginner musicians. The series, entitled Living Harmony, was born of our organizations’ shared appreciation for the importance of inspiring young musicians with repertoire that is rich and engaging. The series features original works commissioned by G. Schirmer, written by renowned composers, and premiered by our Harmony Program students. The first piece in the series, composed by Sir Andre Previn, will be premiered at this year’s Harmony Program gala on March 1st. Additional works and their premiers will be announced later in the year, and all of the pieces will be made available to other youth ensembles across the country. We thank our partners at G. Schirmer and the participating composers for their interest in supporting the musical development of our students.
October 30, 2015
The inaugural $100,000 Warner Music Prize was awarded earlier this month to virtuoso violinist, Augustin Hadelich, in support of his promising musical career. The son of German parents, Mr. Hadelich was born and raised in Italy. A resident of New York City since 2004 and now an American citizen, he holds an Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School, where he was a student of Joel Smirnoff. He was a Gold medalist at the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and received the Avery Fisher Career Grant (2009), a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship (2011), and the Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award (2012).
(Pictured above: Augustin Hadelich, Warner Music Prize winner.)
The Harmony Program was selected as a beneficiary of the Prize and also received a donation of $100,000. This gift comes at a critically important moment as we have expanded the reach of our services significantly this year. We extend our sincere appreciation to the Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Foundation for their generosity and for their commitment to nurturing the talents of young classical musicians.
September 30, 2015
(Pictured above: Some of the more than 60 teachers who will staff our instructional sites this year.)
This year the Harmony Program welcomes over 60 new and returning teachers to work in our partnering schools and community centers throughout the city and on Long Island. Our teaching staff has been trained at the nation’s top music schools, including the Juilliard School, Oberlin, Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, Yale School of Music, and New England Conservatory. They represent over 10 states and five countries and perform a range of musical styles — from classical, jazz, blues and Broadway music, to hip hop, funk, pop, rock, and electronica. Most importantly, they all share a passion for our mission of expanding access to music education in under-served communities.
July 30, 2015
This summer, the Harmony Program is holding eight weeks of daily instruction at our Washington Heights, Flatbush, and Long Island sites. Each afternoon, our students work hard to develop their technique, musicality, music theory knowledge, and appreciation for the instruments that they love.
(Pictured above: trumpet instructor, Rebecca Steinberg, with students Elisha Gomez, Frank Tan, and Ethan Tan at the United Palace Theater)
Though our students rehearse with kids from their own schools during the school year, over the summer they join students from other Harmony Program sites. This allows them to meet new friends and to develop their social skills, all while keeping their musical talents sharp year-round.
“We’re really enjoying the extra time that we have with the kids. Their work during the summer is definitely going to pay off in the fall.”
-Larry Markiewicz, Orchestra Director at the Flatbush YMCA
June 8, 2015
On Friday, June 5th, ABC World News Tonight with David Muir concluded their broadcast by naming all of the dedicated students of the Harmony Program as its “Persons of the Week.” The segment focused on a new joint initiative of the Harmony Program and the New York Philharmonic known as the All Star Ensemble.
The Harmony Program’s All Star Ensemble and several other collaborative efforts with the New York Philharmonic are made possible through the Philharmonic Academy Jr., which provides pre-college students with training by Philharmonic musicians.
The inaugural All Star Ensemble consisted of eight Harmony Program students, who were chosen by audition to participate in an 11-day mentorship with the musicians of the New York Philharmonic. The All Stars attended a New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert, met with conductor Alan Gilbert, sat in on a closed New York Philharmonic rehearsal, and spent a day rehearsing with six New York Philharmonic musicians to prepare for a side-by-side performance that took place on Wednesday, May 20th in the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center.
On behalf of the Harmony Program, we would like to extend our gratitude to the New York Philharmonic musicians who participated in this first-ever All Star Ensemble experience: George Curran (trombone), Hae-Young Ham (violin), Anna Rabinova (violin), Qiang Tu (cello), Kyle Zerna (percussion), and Joshua Gersen, the Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor beginning in the 2015-2016 season. We would also like to thank Theodore Wiprud, Vice President, Education, New York Philharmonic, whose ongoing efforts have helped make this and other important educational opportunities possible for our students.
Congratulations to our 2015 Harmony Program All Star Ensemble students: Leslie Alvarez (cello), Christele Cherestal (violin), Wellington Jimenez (viola), Justin Laurenceau (trombone), Sebastian Millien (percussion), Liliana Peeler (viola), Megan Simon (cello), and Mauricio Solis (violin). Congratulations also to all of our Harmony Program students for being named ABC’s “Persons of the Week.” This recognition is a testament to their hard work and dedication to studying music. And finally, thank you to their parents and Harmony Program instructors for the invaluable support and encouragement they give our students every day.
April 13, 2015
The Harmony Program and the New York Philharmonic have announced the launch of the Harmony Program All-Star Ensemble. Made possible through our growing partnership with the Philharmonic, nine Harmony Program students, selected by city-wide audition, have been awarded mentorships with New York Philharmonic musicians. In addition to attending a Philharmonic rehearsal and performance followed by a reception with their mentors, this special opportunity affords students a day of intensive one-on-one coaching by Philharmonic musicians at Avery Fisher Hall and culminates in a public performance in the Atrium at Lincoln Center on May 20th.
Additional details can be found in recent media coverage of the announcement, including a New York 1 television segment (see below), a feature on WQXR’s website, and a brief news reader on CBS News Radio.
We thank the New York Philharmonic for their partnership and congratulate our inaugural class of Harmony Program All Stars!