• Profiles in Harmony: Angela Shankar

    April 11, 2014

    Angela Shankar, Harmony Program teacher

    Angela Shankar has taught with the Harmony Program since 2013. In addition to her work with us, she is the Director of Performing and Educational Events for InThePocketNYC and is also on the faculty of the preparatory division at Mannes College.

    How did you start teaching music?

    I started teaching private clarinet lessons in high school to young clarinet students and I was hooked immediately. I went to college as a clarinet performance major but quickly added a music education minor during my freshman year. I am so glad that I did! Having the opportunity to teach music is an incredible gift.

    How does teaching with Harmony compare to other teaching experiences you’ve had?

    Harmony is a very special program and unlike any other teaching experience I’ve had. Because the students have so much concentrated instruction time after school, I’m able to challenge them and watch them grow at such a rapid pace. Often times you only get to see your students once or twice a week, but with Harmony at PS129, the students are able to study music every single day. It’s incredible!

    “One of the most rewarding moments in teaching is witnessing a student feel confident and excited to share what they’ve worked on with the class during our group lessons.”

    Can you describe your classroom environment?

    We are like a big clarinet family in our classroom. The students encourage each other and work together to improve. They know that it’s okay to squeak or to make mistakes and that correcting mistakes is an important part of learning new music. We focus on the process more than the end result– though we look forward to the concerts very much!

    How do you encourage your students to practice at home?

    I often encourage my students to practice very specific parts of the music that are challenging for them. Sometimes it may only be 2 or 3 measures long. With a specific objective in mind, they take their instruments home and they are able to successfully achieve their goal. One of the most rewarding moments in teaching is witnessing a student feel confident and excited to share what they’ve worked on with the class during our group lessons.

    Thanks Angela!

  • CBS Evening News Features the Harmony Program Master Class

    April 8, 2014

    This weekend, Harmony Program students from across the city came together once again at the United Palace Theatre for a day of rehearsals and performances with musicians from the New York Philharmonic and West Point Band.

    A Master Class is essentially an open rehearsal. In workshops throughout the day, students work with professionals to strengthen a variety of skills – from posture and technique to performance and interpretation. The event gives our students the opportunity to dig deeper into the details of the music they’ve been working on all semester, but also provides an opportunity for families and supporters to witness what goes on every day after school in Harmony Program classes.

    This was our third master class, and our kids sounded better than ever when they closed out the day with a side-by-side orchestra performance with the pros.

    CBS Evening News was there to capture the day for a feature that aired on Saturday night:

    Thanks again to the musicians, partners, supporters, and families who made the day such a success. Make sure to check out more photos on Facebook and, if you haven’t already, sign up for the Harmony Program email list to find out about upcoming special events.

  • “Young People Perform” at the United Palace

    March 20, 2014

    Last night, Harmony Program students at the United Palace took part in the UPCA’s second “Young People Perform” event, which brought together students from a number of arts programs in the Washington Heights and Inwood communities.

    The Harmony Program string orchestra, featuring both beginners and second-year students, sounded awesome. Here they are performing a French folk song.:

    Performing as an orchestra gives our students a unique perspective on the music they play. Here are three of our violin students, Chris, Mauricio, and Alex, describing their performance of Dvorak’s “Humoresque.”

  • Dr. Susan Davis Speaks to Harmony Teachers About Creating “Flow” in the Classroom

    February 28, 2014

    Dr. Susan Davis

    Last week, we welcomed Dr. Susan Davis, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Music Education at Brooklyn College, to work with our teachers at our mid-semester training workshop. Dr. Davis, who is a performer as well as an educator like many of our teachers, stressed the importance of creating “flow” in the classroom, specifically as it relates to student rehearsals and warm-up activities.

    “Flow,” a concept originally proposed by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is a state of heightened focus, or “the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” Dr. Davis discussed strategies and techniques to encourage this sort of high-level engagement in students, and collaborated with our teachers to develop effective classroom management and preparation techniques, addressing specific situations that teachers have encountered during the year so far.

    Thanks again to Dr. Davis for taking the time to share some of her insights and experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about the concept of “flow,” check out this video:

  • Profiles in Harmony: David Wiley

    February 26, 2014

    David Wiley has taught with the Harmony Program for just over a year, but in that short time he’s developed a close bond with his cello students. Here’s what David has to say about his experience as a musician and teacher, and how he motivates his students and encourages learning in and out of the classroom.

    How and when did you start playing music?

    I started playing cello when I was 7. Both of my parents play the cello. My mother teaches and my father plays professionally. I grew up with music always playing in my house. Whether it was one of my mother’s students, or my father playing chamber music, cello was all I heard for years growing up. Aside from cello in my family, I love its sound. I love the deep thunderous bass or the high sweet melodies.

    Can you tell us something about your favorite teachers?

    I had many teachers growing up in high school and college, but my favorite was Garfield Moore. I had him my senior year at Bard College. Bard is primarily a liberal arts school. I went and got my degree in English literature with a minor in cello performance. I always figured I would play cello for my own enjoyment. I never really saw it as a possible career. But Garfield really inspired me. He made me believe that I could be a cellist, and once I realized that, it made my playing grow so much.

    What have you learned from your experience as a Harmony teacher?

    “It’s surprising and inspiring to see such enthusiasm.”

    Teaching at Harmony always surprises me. Initially, last September, each of my students was motivated and enthusiastic. And now, over a year later, they still maintain that positive energy. They’re always willing to play and willing to challenge themselves. I’ve definitely learned to keep moving forward and not become complacent. I love that the students aim to high goals and want to play difficult songs. Two of my students want to learn a famous tango by Astor Piazzola called “Libertango.” It’s very advanced, but I found a nice arrangement, and they practice it every day. It’s surprising and inspiring to see such enthusiasm.

    What kind of classroom environment do you find works best for you and your students?

    In the classroom, I like to keep things fun and light, but my students know that I expect much from them. I mix things up often. I’ll split them into duets, have them play solos, have them sight read a piece as a group. I encourage them to work within themselves to learn new pieces. This creates a close knit group for them and an altogether safe environment for the classroom.

    How do you encourage your students to practice?

    “Students will practice a piece that they love.”

    The music I select varies between basic method books, the regimented Suzuki books, and then pieces of my own choosing. I supplement these with duets, trios, pop songs, and other fun cello pieces I’ve found over the years. I’ve always taught with a standby rule that students will practice a piece that they love. Of course, it’s still vital that they learn proper technique and playing styles, but once they have that strong base, I want them to be able to play a piece that they love. They continue to surprise and impress me with their capacity for learning new music.

    Thanks David!

  • Winter Gala with Joshua Bell

    January 30, 2014

    Thank you again to everyone who came out to Capitale on Tuesday night for our Winter Gala! The evening was a celebration of music and an experience that none of us will soon forget.

    We were honored to host Grammy Award-winning violinist, Joshua Bell, who is not only a world-renowned musician, but a longtime advocate of music education. His dedication both to music and community reflects the Harmony Program’s priorities and the values we hope to instill in our students, and it was an honor to celebrate with him and our supporters, teachers, and students.

    Mr. Bell met and rehearsed with our students before performing for our audience of supporters, teachers, and families. He then sat in with the Harmony youth orchestra, performing Strauss’s Radetzky March with over 60 young musicians from Brooklyn, Harlem, and Washington Heights. After the performance, he spoke about his favorite teachers and his most memorable performances, and answered questions from interested students.

    We are proud to showcase our student’s achievements, and this night was truly special. Thanks again to everyone who made it possible, including the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, Bob McGrath, the Alexander Maxwell Grant Foundation, and our many generous supporters.

  • New Partnership with the D’Addario Foundation

    January 27, 2014

    We believe that music should be an integral part of every child’s education, and this year we’ve partnered with the D’Addario Foundation to create an after-school music program for young people from schools on Long Island who haven’t had a strings program in over 30 years.

    After a period of planning and recruitment, we celebrated the start of the program on January 8th and began classes on January 24th. This three-year collaborative effort will provide twenty-six third- and fourth-grade students, from the Deauville East and West Elementary Schools, with musical instruments, transportation to the D’Addario facility after school, and six hours a week of instruction on violin, viola and cello, provided by teachers who are local professionals and music education students at nearby Hofstra University.

    Check out pictures from the first week of classes on Facebook. We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing their progress in the coming months!