• The Orchestra of St. Luke’s String Trio Visits the Harmony Program

    November 14, 2012

    On Tuesday, Harmony Program students at PS 129 in Harlem were treated to a very special visit from a trio of string players from the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

    Daire Fitzgerald (cello), Eriko Sato (violin), and Louise Schulman (viola) performed for the students selections from Haydn, Dohnanyi, and Beethoven. As the trio played, students conducted from their seats, nodded along with the beats, and mimicked the musicians’ playing styles.

    After the performance, the visiting musicians took time to answer the students’ thoughtful questions and discuss their own beginnings as musicians.

    Harmony string players then received the very special opportunity of individual coaching from Ms. Fitzgerald, Ms. Sato, and Ms. Schulman. As the class of young violinists started on Smetena’s The Moldau, Ms. Sato worked with each student, guiding them through difficult passages. Ms. Fitzgerald coached the cello students on performing dynamics, and Ms. Schulman worked with the viola class on Handel’s Le Rejouissance.

    Thanks so much to the musicians, and to Jen Kessler and Marc Caruso from the Orchestra of St. Luke’s for making this very special afternoon possible.

    For more information about the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, including news about upcoming events and performances, visit their website: www.oslmusic.org.

  • Profiles in Harmony: Jesse Schiffman

    October 22, 2012

    Jesse is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he earned his Master’s in Flute Performance. As a student at Juilliard, Jesse received the Gluck Community Service Fellowship and provided flute instruction to New York City public school students at P.S. 7 in East Harlem. In 2009 and 2010, he took part in an exchange program to work with the El Sistema-inspired “Neojba” program in Salvador, Brazil. Jesse joined us this fall, and he’ll begin teaching at the new Harmony Program site at P.S. 107 in the Bronx later this month.

    How and when did you start playing music?

    I began playing the flute in 4th grade through my school’s band program. I chose the flute because my mother had played the flute so we already had an instrument.

    Can you tell us something about your favorite teachers?

    My favorite teacher is Sarah Tuck, from the San Diego Symphony; she was my teacher during high school. Sarah was a wonderful teacher because she taught the technical aspects of playing the flute through musicality. For example, one day Sarah sent me home with Schubert’s “Die Schone Mullerin” and a recording of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and told me to practice the songs and study the recording, and come back next week sounding like Mr. Fischer-Dieskau. Through teaching me how to play the songs musically, as though I was singing them, Sarah was teaching me tone and sound technique.

    What do you hope to learn from your experience as a Harmony teacher?

    “I hope to inspire my students to be better people, people who feel important in the world, and people who feel as though they have something unique and important to contribute to and share with others.”

    The student/teacher relationship can be a very reciprocal one. I hope to learn how to effectively translate my thoughts and ideas to students. I hope to inspire my students to be better people, people who feel important in the world, and people who feel as though they have something unique and important to contribute to and share with others.

    If you could do anything besides play music, what would it be?

    If I could do anything besides music I would be a writer or literature teacher. Or maybe an astronaut.

    If you could give your students one piece of advice, what would it be?

    My advice to any student is to have ridiculously high aspirations and never give up. Everyone goes through difficult times where they doubt themselves. Don’t dwell on errors; learn from them and know that failure is part of success.


    Thanks, Jesse!

  • The Harmony Program Celebrates at the United Palace Theater!

    October 11, 2012

    On Tuesday night, the Harmony Program welcomed partners, supporters, teachers, and families to mark the start of the academic year and the launch of a new site at the spectacular United Palace Theater in Washington Heights.

    The event featured performances by Harmony students, Julian Deshommes, Megan Simon, and Christele Cherestal, and live Latin jazz, courtesy of our good friend, Venezuelan violinist, Ali Bello.

    Following remarks by Mike Fitelson, Director of Programming for the United Palace of Cultural Arts; Anne Fitzgibbon, Harmony Program Executive Director; and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a Harmony Program string trio took the stage to perform a theme from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” and variations on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

    Thanks to our hosts and all of our guests for such a memorable evening!

  • Tricia Tunstall Speaks to Harmony Teachers at Training Workshop

    September 24, 2012

    Last Friday, we welcomed author and educator, Tricia Tunstall, to speak to our new and returning teachers as part of our first pre-program Teacher Training Workshop of the new school year.

    Tunstall’s recent book, Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music, tells the story of Venezuela’s internationally renowned model of music education and its most famous ambassador, L.A. Philharmonic conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

    Tricia has traveled the world sharing her studies of El Sistema, its methods, and its impact, and she offered our teachers valuable insights into the ways in which they can adapt to their classrooms El Sistema’s holistic approach to teaching.

    In addressing the adaptability of El Sistema to other cultures, Tunstall told us that each El Sistema-inspired music program is distinct from the others. She characterized the Harmony Program as driven by “a tremendous and beautiful ambition to reach very far and very high.”

    Tricia also expressed excitement about working with our teachers in the workshop setting. “I’d love to see them be pioneers in figuring out how the principles of El Sistema can catch fire here,” she said. “They are out there experimenting, and they’re the ones who will really figure out what El Sistema will look like in the United States.”

  • New Partnership with the United Palace of Cultural Arts

    September 20, 2012

    The Harmony Program is coming to Washington Heights!

    The United Palace of Cultural Arts, the first dedicated space for arts and cultural programs in Washington Heights, was founded on the commitment to use the arts as a means to unite and uplift young people in this diverse community. As UPCA Director of Programming, Mike Fitelson, explains, “Our motto is, ‘This is where art transforms lives.’”

    It’s no surprise, then, that one of the first priorities for UPCA organizers was to welcome to the space a program inspired by Venezuela’s world renowned youth orchestra system, “El Sistema,” in an effort to introduce neighborhood children to the many benefits of music-making.

    Enter the Harmony Program.

    “The music is actually just the hook. … You’re really trying to mold citizens out of these kids. You’re teaching them the confidence, the self-esteem, and the camaraderie that will help them become high-achieving individuals,” says Fitelson, “and that’s what all of the programs here should do.”

    “The music is actually just the hook. You’re really trying to mold citizens out of these kids. You’re teaching them the confidence, the self-esteem, and the camaraderie that will help them become high-achieving individuals…”

    The partnership between the Harmony Program and the United Palace officially began last Thursday at Harmony’s orientation and instrument demonstration, an annual event where teachers share their instruments with prospective students, and the students make informed choices about which one they want to study with the Harmony Program. Classes start in the coming weeks.

    We’re so proud of the group of teachers working with us this year at the UPCA, and for the opportunity to be a part of this valuable addition to the Washington Heights community. Stay tuned for more updates on the Harmony Program at the United Palace, and read more about last Thursday’s event at the UPCA’s website.

  • Harmony Program on the PBS NewsHour

    February 28, 2012

    On Friday night, the PBS NewsHour ran a 10-minute segment on the Harmony Program — including interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators — to demonstrate how Harmony is using classical music instruction to help children realize their strengths, talents, and potential. The piece culminates with the children’s performance under the direction of Maestro Plácido Domingo at this year’s annual gala in January.