Brooklyn, NY—More than 50 children from the third, fourth and fifth grades at P.S. 152 held their winter recital in Levenson Hall on Monday, December 21. This marks the first public performance for some of the children who were part of the 2009 Harmony Program, in which students and graduates of the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College were trained to teach schoolchildren.
“Music is so much more than just learning to play an instrument,” says Ann Fitzgibbon, director of operations for CUNY and deputy to the senior university dean for academic affairs and the dean of the School of Professional Studies. “It teaches them to communicate with each other, to cooperate and to express their own creative voices.”
Launched in 2008 by CUNY as a pilot project with Brooklyn College, the Harmony Program provides daily after-school music lessons to children from economically disadvantaged communities. Inspired by Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras, known as “El Sistema,” the program taps the city’s college- and graduate-level music students as teachers, training them to develop the talents of young people who would not ordinarily be exposed to music education. Classes take place Monday through Friday after school hours, from October through December.
“This semester we had a total of eight teachers, including six Brooklyn College students and alumni, who taught violin, clarinet, flute, trumpet and percussion to the children,” Fitzgibbon adds. The success of the pilot program at Brooklyn College convinced CUNY to expand it to City College this fall.
The six Brooklyn College undergraduate and graduate students who participated this semester were Christian Alonzo (brass), Jessica Billitteri (flute), Hye Jin Cho (cello), JoAnne Maffia (percussion and composition), Ayah Rifai (clarinet) and Jason Silva (brass).
During the event, in addition to the children’s rendering of some of the most popular Christmas carols, P.S. 152 students Julian Deshommes and Naomi Mitchell received a special certificate and a $15 iTunes gift card for writing the best essays about what they liked about the program.