A NEW STAGE
Updated: Nov 7, 2018
At this stage in my 15-year journey -- from policy advisor, to entrepreneur, to nonprofit executive -- I'm assuming a new role of "Blogger," in an effort to assist others who aspire to build and strengthen their communities through music. Read below and follow along!
How often have you seen that wide-eyed mix of excitement and fear on the faces of your music students as they step onto a stage for the first time and take the risk of revealing a part of themselves to their audience?
Well, that's pretty much what I'm feeling as I write my first official blog.
Like some of our young performers, I have hesitated to step too quickly onto a public stage, choosing instead to spend a bit more time "in the practice room," so to speak. I wanted to be confident in the future of my organization and its impact before speaking with authority to the broader field of music education.
Why blog now?
Last year the Harmony Program reached an important milestone, celebrating 10 years of service to the children and families of New York City. In that time, we have ...
Reached over 1,000 students;
Trained over 300 teachers;
Modeled our work at schools and CBOs across the City;
Partnered with culturals and corporations;
Collaborated with greats like Plácido Domingo, Wynton Marsalis, and Joshua Bell;
Been featured on news programs like the PBSNewsHour and ABC Nightly News; and,
Captured data suggesting our students outperform their peers academically.
...But simply cataloging our organizational achievements is less instructive than sharing the odyssey that brought me here, an odyssey that began back in 2003. At that time, I was working in the New York City Mayor's Office on education policy and discovered, through my research, the scarcity of music education in the city schools.
That discovery was a catalytic moment for me. Rather unexpectedly, I found my interests and abilities aligned with a purpose and opportunity. And, in short order, I began planting the early seeds of the Harmony Program and dreaming of approaching music education differently:
Bringing instruction directly into under-served communities;
Offering uniquely intensive instruction;
Providing homes for our students within local ensembles; and,
Building and training a community of civic-minded music teachers.
Since that time, my career has been a study in the highs and lows of growing a concept into a sustainable enterprise -- launching the Harmony Program as a pilot project at City Hall, moving to Venezuela to study “El Sistema," partnering with the City University of New York to incubate our model, and ultimately, establishing an independent nonprofit organization.
The byproduct of that rich experience has been an understanding that the thrill of starting something new is inevitably accompanied by occasional doubts and frustrations. While it's the best work in the world, without question, don't let anyone tell you it's easy.
Indeed, year after year, I am approached by individuals and organizations navigating the maelstrom of entrepreneurship. They come from across the country and all over the world. What they share is a passion and a commitment to their communities. What they seek are ideas, direction, and sometimes just a generous dose of reassurance.
The purpose of this blog is to highlight, for them and others, the advice I wish I had received, suggestions and resources to help guide their efforts, pitfalls to be avoided, occasional musings on music education and entrepreneurship, and success stories for motivation and inspiration.
My father, an educator, had a phrase I remember fondly. “Teaching,” he would say, “is the noblest profession.” With more than a decade behind the Harmony Program, I am eager to expand the process of teaching and learning beyond our classrooms to help and encourage the efforts of other projects and programs.
As I always tell our young musicians as they step onto a new stage: performing is about sharing what you’ve learned, bringing joy to others, and building community.
That’s what I hope you’ll take away from this blog.
Please share this blog with those you think it might benefit and those who would bring value to our discussions.
What do you hope to gain by reading this blog?