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by David Drake


“Our kids’ lives are transformed,” said Roy Niederhoffer, Chairman of the Harmony Program’s Board. “They not only learn an incredible skill which enriches their lives, they also learn the value of hard work and persistence. education seems to improve young minds as well — research shows that kids who receive intensive music lessons do better on cognitive tasks like spatial reasoning, math and reading.”

#Musical Beat of Harmony #Program Transforms Lives

Roy Niederhoffer, Chairman of the Harmony Program’s Board (Photo courtesy of Yuan Kong, CUNY)

The Harmony Program started as a pilot program in the New York City Mayor’s Office in 2003. It incorporated the following year as a non-profit organization. By 2008, it was re-launched with the present model, highlighting intensive instruction, ensemble performance and teacher training.

The program provides free musical instruments and daily music lessons to its 200-plus students in New York City and Long Island. Equivalent private instruction would probably cost more than $10,000 per student per year.

#Musical Beat of Harmony #Program Transforms Lives

Harmony Program violinist Vanessa Sidemion and New York Philharmonic Hae Young Ham in front of the Harmony Program Orchestra (Photo courtesy of

On April 2, 2015, during the Harmony Program’s annual gala, the organization raised over $325,000, including more than $100,000 raised at the live auction by the Heritage Auction House’s Kathleen Guzman. It was a beautiful evening, with a packed house at Capitale in lower Manhattan. Hosted by John Merrow of the PBS NewsHour, the gala featured performances by musicians of the New York Philharmonic including Haeyoung Ham, violinist, and Anthony McGill, principal clarinet. Together with musicians of the New York Philharmonic, 50 Harmony Program students made music and entertained the guests to their delight.

#Musical Beat of Harmony #Program Transforms Lives

Solo clarinet performance with the Park AvenueChamberSymphony (Photo courtesy of Yuan Kong, CUNY)

The Harmony Program 2015 Spring Gala honored the New York Philharmonic for its partnership. Through the Philharmonic Academy, Jr., Philharmonic musicians help train Harmony’s students as well as coach an “All Star” ensemble of their most promising young musicians. Just this past January 31st, more than 100 students in the program from Brooklyn, Harlem, Washington Heights, and Long Island gathered at the United Palace Theater to receive instruction from these world-class musicians as part of the annual Harmony Program and New York Philharmonic Master Class.

#Musical Beat of Harmony #Program Transforms Lives

Harmony Program student orchestra (Photo courtesy of Yuan Kong, CUNY)

Students in the Harmony Program hail from 36 different public schools, 5 charter schools, and 2 parochial schools, and are chosen based on their level of interest and commitment to practice, and not on talent. Children in the third to fifth grade, between the ages of 8 and 11, are targeted in the recruitment process.

Anne Fitzgibbon, Harmony Program Founder and Executive Director, studied Venezuela’s national youth orchestra system called “El Sistema” on a year-long Fulbright Fellowship and adapted tenets of the model to the unique needs of New York communities. The Harmony Program’s approach can be plugged into any school and change the lives of the students it serves. By training talented local musicians as its teachers, the Harmony Program also helps prepare a new generation of music teachers.

Founder of Harmony Program

Founder of Harmony Program Anne Fitzgibbon and me (Photo courtesy of

The intensive, high quality, daily instrumental music lessons and ensemble practice that the children in the Harmony Program receive is far more effective than, say, a cursory exposure to the arts. Each child enrolled in the program receives up to 400 hours of music instruction each year. Daily attendance rates at student lessons after school averages 85 percent. Ninety five (95) percent of participating parents surveyed last year rated the program as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent.’ Among the teachers trained to guide Harmony students from beginner to orchestra member, 98 percent rated their experience as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent.’

The Harmony Program gala was a beautiful, well-attended evening that showcased the students’ achievements and the passion for music among the parents, children and patrons of the arts in attendance was unmistakable.

Michael Lynde, Pamela Stein, Michael Capasso and Dietlinde Turban Maazel

Michael Lynde, Pamela Stein, Michael Capasso and Dietlinde Turban Maazel (Photo courtesy of

Aside from Roy, I saw Erin Gibbs, Chief Equity Chief Investment Officer of Standard and Poor’s Investment Advisory Services; Michael Capasso, NYCO Renaissance General Director; David Monk, Vice President of Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Alexandra Von Winterfeldt, Director of Digital Music, Sony Music; Times Impact Publications Group Publisher Ian Shapolsky; Dietlinde Turban Maazel, Executive & Artistic Director of Castleton Festival; Molly Hammerberg, attorney; Pamela Stein, Michael Lynde, Allegra Cohen and Jack Weiner.

Alexandra Von Winterfeldt, Erin Gibbs, Allegra Cohen and David Monk

Alexandra Von Winterfeldt, Erin Gibbs, Allegra Cohen and David Monk (Photo courtesy of

Many students of the Harmony Program have joined competitive orchestras and attend public schools for the performing arts, including the InterSchool Orchestras of New York and the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Maestro Placido Domingo conducted an orchestra of Harmony Program students in 2012. Joshua Bell, the Grammy-winning violinist, performed together with Harmony Program students in 2014, and on the gala night, they took their seats side-by-side with their fellow musicians of the Philharmonic.

Jack Weiner and Times Impact Publications Group Publisher Ian Shapolsky

Jack Weiner and Times Impact Publications Group Publisher Ian Shapolsky (Photo courtesy of

Music soothes, calms, and brings joy to life. As a child, I enjoyed my studies in music in Sweden. As a teen, I learned to dance salsa and tango and appreciated the accompanying music. I listen to music every day, for it removes the noise and bustle of city life that continually bombards our senses.

Roy Niederhoffer and soprano Larisa Martinez

Roy Niederhoffer and soprano Larisa Martinez (Photo courtesy of

I don’t know what I would do without my daily dose of music. I can understand a child’s passion to master a musical instrument and, once introduced to it, to create music. The Harmony Program does not only train new artists, but molds the character of our children.



Featured Image credit to

Note: This article originally appeared on HuffPost with this link  on  April 14, 2015.




David Drake is the Chairman of LDJ Capital, private equity advisory; Victoria Partners, a 110 family office network; Drake Hospitality Group; and The Soho Loft Media Group with divisions Victoria Global Communications, Times Impact Publications, and The Soho Loft Conferences. Reach him directly at

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