May 4, 2013
For the past two years, we’ve been fortunate to work with the musicians of the West Point Band, who have worked with our teachers and students in the classroom and at special events and performances.
This week, the West Point Band’s Quintette 7 performed at P.S. 129 to an extremely enthusiastic crowd of students. Pieces included “Angry Birds” and “Mario Brothers,” both of which were received with screams and dancing. After the program, Quintette 7 performed a couple of instrumental features for our students and answered questions from the young musicians.
Kristen Mather, one of the West Point musicians, told us “The West Point Band believes strongly in supporting tri-state area schools and their children through music education, and the Harmony Program is at the forefront of efforts in New York City. Their work epitomizes values such as goodwill and selfless service, and our musicians have been honored to collaborate with Harmony to bring events to the students of Harlem.”
April 27, 2013
On Thursday, April 25th, the Chelsea Symphony presented an evening of music for our students and families from the Washington Heights community. The evening was led by Julie Desbordes, Harmony Program teacher and newly appointed Associate Conductor of Education and Outreach of the Chelsea Symphony.
Children met the musicians of the orchestra, explored their instruments in an instrument “petting zoo,” learned how to bird whistle and make flowers with crepe paper, and discovered literature and poetry related to the spring season.
Later, the orchestra presented a concert featuring music in the spirit of the spring season: “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, “Morgenstimmung” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite , Copland’s “Variations on a Shaker Melody”, excerpts from Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony, and lastly, the “Voices of Spring” Waltz by Strauss.
Thanks again to Julie, the Chelsea Symphony, and all of the musicians and teaching artists who helped us celebrate the new season.
April 18, 2013
Jacqueline joined the Harmony Program last summer and has taught beginner violin students at the United Palace of Cultural Arts since October. Here’s what she has to say about her experience as a musician and teacher, and how she creates a bond with her students.
How and when did you start playing music?
I started playing the violin when I was 5. My parents took me to a children’s concert of Peter and the Wolf, after which I started asking for violin lessons.
Can you tell us something about your favorite teachers?
All of my music teachers and coaches have impacted my life, musically and otherwise. My most recent teacher, Laurie Smukler, showed me the importance of playing with your whole heart. She embodies this, which is not an easy thing to do!
What do you hope to learn from your experience teaching with the Harmony Program this year?
I hope to learn new ways to connect with and inspire my students to reach high and succeed. I know that I will learn a lot from the El Sistema-inspired, holistic approach to teaching music.
What kind of classroom environment do you find works best for you and your students?
“How can we improve our playing position? Create a more beautiful tone? Play better in tune? Play more expressively? The key is putting the music first.”
I expect a lot from my students but approach teaching with a positive attitude. I do not impose limits on their potential, and they seem to enjoy the challenge. I correct mistakes without judging the student and use them instead to think about how to make the music better. How can we improve our playing position? Create a more beautiful tone? Play better in tune? Play more expressively? The key is putting the music first. I often put students in pairs and encourage them to help each other. I have been happily surprised on several occasions to see one student correct another and have that student reply, “Oh, thanks!”
My students know that they can talk to me about anything. Class time is reserved for music, but I am available to them before or after class. Students often tell me about both their accomplishments and difficulties in school and in social situations, and I try to give the best advice I can.
April 14, 2013
On Saturday, students and families from Harmony Program sites in Harlem and Washington Heights joined Executive Director, Anne Fitzgibbon, for “Fiesta,” the final Young People’s Concert of the season. The performance focused on the influential music of Spain and featured selections by Lalo, Bizet, and Falla, performed on violin and guitar, and accompanied by flamenco dancing.
The New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts series began in the 1920’s and gained popularity when Leonard Bernstein joined the Philharmonic as Music Director in the late 1950’s. Bernstein eventually led over fifty Young People’s Concerts that were televised and syndicated around the world. The series continues today, and is hosted by Ted Wiprud, Director of Education at the New York Philharmonic.
Thanks again to everyone who made this special day possible!
April 10, 2013
This Saturday, over 100 Harmony Program students from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx joined members of the New York Philharmonic for an inspiring afternoon of master classes.
After introducing themselves to the students, and talking a bit about their own musical experiences, the musicians worked with the students, sharing performance and practice tips, and perfecting the pieces that they would perform together at the end of the day.
Following group lessons, the orchestra took the stage, accompanied by the Philharmonic musicians and Harmony teachers, to perform Handel’s “La Rejouissance,” Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev,” and a very special arrangement of “What a Wonderful World.”
Thanks again to the Harmony Program students, parents, and teachers, and the musicians, teaching artists, and staff of the New York Philharmonic.
March 6, 2013
Walking down West 130th Street near St. Nicholas Park, one can hear the sound of music coming from the windows of PS 129, where the students of the Harmony Program rehearse every afternoon. On Wednesday, melodies echoed off the concrete and bricks outside as Julie Desbordes’s trumpet class polished up an arrangement of Moussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev, which they’ll perform later this spring.
These young musicians were kind enough to take a moment out of their rehearsal to talk about their experiences playing music.
Of all the instruments in the orchestra, why choose the trumpet?
Raphael: I picked the trumpet because I liked how it sounded. It can make all different kinds of sounds.
Julio: I started playing the trumpet to continue what my mom started. She played the trumpet when she was little and I wanted to play also.
What is the most important thing to know about playing the trumpet?
Jordan: There are two important things: contact and air.
Julio: Some people think it’s just air to play the trumpet, but you need both.
Jordan: Yea, but you have to make contact with the lips, like a buzzing sound, and then the air. That’s how you play the trumpet.
Tell me a little bit about your teacher, Miss Julie. Is she a good trumpet player?
Julio: Oh man, she’s good. She’s extremely good.
Johann: Yea, she should teach teachers — that’s how good she is.
Raphael: And she can play high and fast!
Bryan: She can teach us every day. That’s how I know she’s good.
You all come here every day. That’s a lot of work. Is it hard?
Bryan: Nope. I love it.
Jenifer, you’re the one beginner in the group, how do you like it so far?
Jenifer: I like it a lot. My dad played the trumpet when he lived in another country, and now he plays the piano. We play together sometimes and he helps me practice.
Do all of you play at home with your families?
Raphael: They like to listen to me, especially my little sister.
Julio: I have two little sisters, and the youngest likes to take my trumpet from me when I’m playing. My guess is that she’ll be a trumpet player one day soon.
Bryan: My baby brother likes to sit in my trumpet case because it’s so soft.
Any advice to other kids who are just beginning to play music?
Jordan: If you want to play an instrument, play the trumpet!
Thanks to Miss Julie and the students!
March 4, 2013
This weekend, twenty students from the Harmony Program orchestra at P.S. 129 joined teachers and staff for a field trip to the “Red Dogs and Pink Skies: The Colors of Music” performance at Alice Tully Hall. The event was part of the “Meet the Music” series of educational concerts for children and families put on by our friends at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Featuring the music of composer Bruce Adolphe, who also serves as the resident lecturer and Director of Family Programs at CMS, the concert explored relationships between music and the visual arts, and asked the students to think about the ways that music is like painting, and vice versa.
During the Q&A that followed the performance, Harmony student Naomi Wleh asked percussionist, Ian David Rosenbaum, his favorite instrument to play. His answer? “The Marimba.” (Mr. Rosenbaum recently won the Salzburg International Marimba Competition.)
Thanks to the Chamber Music Society for such a great afternoon!