Los Angeles, U.S.A — Harmony Project announced the launch of the Harmony Project Academy to provide enhanced music training to 98 music students from low-income homes who show exceptional promise, through a $249,918 ”Widening the Stage” grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.  The award is renewable annually for the next three years.

“Musical talent exists in all communities,” said Dr. Lawrence Kutner, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation executive director, “but not all communities have the financial resources to nurture that talent to its fullest potential. As young, exceptional musicians progress, private lessons, quality instruments, ensembles and summer institutes become critical, but are often financially out of reach for low-income students.”

Harmony Project helps low-income students living in or near LA’s gang reduction zones to develop the habits of mind they need to lead successful lives by connecting them with professional musician mentors from elementary or middle school through high school graduation. Music lessons and instruments are provided after school hours at no charge. School enrollment is required. Students rehearse year-round in orchestras, choirs and other ensembles that Harmony Project builds in the students’ neighborhoods.

Exceptional students selected for the Harmony Project Academy will receive quality instruments and additional opportunities including private lessons, chamber music coaching, music theory classes, participation in summer music institutes, field trips and support with college planning. Academy students, in turn, will help boost the rest of Harmony Project’s 1500+ students as they will also participate in leadership development as peer mentors or teaching assistants.

Harmony Project was founded in 2001 by Margaret Martin, a doctor of public health from UCLA. “The idea wasn’t to make musicians,” says Martin. ”The idea was to use the discipline and joy of ensemble music making to help kids develop the habits of mind they need to lead successful lives and become responsible citizens. The Harmony Project Academy will enable us to provide better support to those students who show exceptional musical promise. “

Harmony Project enrollment has grown from 36 students in 2001 to 1500 with a waiting of 400. Students participate in dozens of youth orchestras, bands and smaller ensembles. Harmony Project students have performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Disney and Royce Hall, on the Tonight Show and with artists such asGustavo Dudamel, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir James Galway, Stevie Wonder and Rickey Minor.

Harmony Project operates in neighborhoods where dropout rates exceed 50%, but over the past five years more than 95% of Harmony Project high school seniors have graduated in four years and have gone on to college. This spring, a Harmony Project alum became the first to receive a Fulbright Scholarship.

Harmony Project is participating in a research project led by Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University to explore the neurological basis for the impact of Harmony Project participation on students’ academic performance. Financial support for this research has been provided by the Knowles Foundation. See http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/.

Harmony Project programs have also launched in Miami, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Ventura, California. Additional programs are being developed in communities throughout the country.

For more information about Harmony Project visit www.harmony-project.org.