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.”
February 28, 2014
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:
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.
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.
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!
December 13, 2013
Here’s the Harmony Program string orchestra from the United Palace of Cultural Arts performing “Russian Sailor’s Dance” at the Plaza Hotel last Friday!
November 11, 2013
We are delighted to announce our upcoming Winter Gala on Tuesday, January 28th. The evening will honor Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell and feature performances by Harmony Program students and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. It is sure to be a celebration you won’t want to miss! Visit the new Gala page on our website and feel free to contact us with any questions.
We hope to see you there!