Harmony Project Pilot Music Education Program Begins at Smithson Craighead Academy

Mike Lawson • News • January 29, 2016

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Music City Youth OrchestraNASHVILE, Tenn. (Jan. 27, 2016)— Music City Youth Orchestra (MCYO) has established the first El Sistema-inspired program in Middle Tennessee at Smithson Craighead Academy’s Elementary School.

The Harmony Project is modeled after the world-renowned social change movement that uses music education and performance as its primary tool for bringing about cognitive and behavioral development for underprivileged children. The after school program at Smithson Craighead is aimed at providing students who might not otherwise have access to music education the chance for hands-on learning and performance opportunities.

“We have been working on developing and implementing the Harmony Project in Nashville for the past several years,” MCYO Executive Director, LeAnn Austin, said. “Music City Youth Orchestra is on a mission to attract and educate the youth of our community about the life importance of music. The Harmony Project will be an exemplary program for creating opportunities for low-income and minority youth to enjoy the benefits of learning and performing live music.”

The Harmony Project, under the guidance of a program director and teaching artist, meets twice a week after school for one hour. Students begin to learn the basics of music, starting with understanding rhythm and movement and learning to express oneself.

“This is such a unique opportunity for us to start teaching these children at a very young age how fun it is to be involved with music,” Heather Martin, Harmony Project Program Director, said. “Just in the first week of classes, we’ve already seen such a wonderful response from the kids and I only expect their curiosity and excitement to grow.”

Classes will definitively continue until the end of the 2016 school year, with plans for at least five student concerts. Plans for fall 2016 classes are dependent on additional funds being raised. MCYO hopes to eventually expand the program to other schools in Nashville and across Tennessee.

“We are very thankful for the Music City Youth Orchestra for beginning this incredible program at our school,” Smithson Craighead Academy Elementary School Principal, Janelle Glover, said. “Music education brings many benefits to children beyond just learning to play an instrument or understanding rhythm. It prepares students to learn, facilitates academic achievement and develops creative coping capacities. We’re very aware that what we are doing now with these classes could very well have a major impact on these children’s futures and our community.”

There are currently about 118 programs within the El Sistema USA system, a national alliance of El Sistema-inspired programs.

Click here to learn more about El Sistema USA. For more information on MCYO and the Harmony Project—including how to donate and get involved—visit musiccityyo.org.

About MCYO

Now in its ninth season, Music City Youth Orchestra (MCYO) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a dynamic atmosphere for student musicians in Middle Tennessee to explore a diverse repertoire for string orchestra. With a Concert Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble program in place, MCYO is expanding its reach into the community with the Harmony Project, an El Sistema-inspired program, for low-income and minority youth in Nashville.

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