Last week I went to a benefit dinner for a non-profit music education program called Harmony. Conceived as a way to provide music lessons to “underserved” communities, the program pairs Julliard students (and students at other music conservatories) with school children in the NYC area.
The program is, to borrow a word from my youth and burgeoning middle age, AWESOME. I could go on forever about this, but in short, all that needs to be said is that unlike so many other after school organizations who claim to provide “enrichment” for “at risk youth,” this program actually delivers on this promise in the best possible way. It is creates a generation music teachers along side a generation of young musicians, as well as a lot of very nice music. (This last bit, as anyone who has heard an orchestra composed of elementary and middle school students can attest, is the most stunning accomplishment.)
This evening the organization honored Joshua Bell, world famous violinist who came into the consciousness of regular people like me (the more “Yo-Yo” than Yo Yo Ma types) when he participated in a stunt in a Washington D.C. Metro station. You have probably seen the video of it when it made the rounds on social media a while back. You know the one, where this virtuoso posed as a street performer and virtually no one stopped to appreciate his brilliance.
This was not a problem at the gala, where we were all appropriately captivated. Watching Joshua Bell play first as a soloist and then together with the student orchestra, I wondered, greedily, how I could get my own children enrolled in the Harmony Program.
Of course I cannot enroll my children. They are not “underserved”. If I want my kids to become part of an orchestra I will have to pay for it, as I should. But this type of group, where where there is a real community of musicians at such a young age who practice together every day without being threatened by their parents, is not easy to find. It isn’t something that can be bought.
Realizing that, as the speakers were soliciting donations from the audience, made me very happy for the kids on stage. Usually at these fund-raising galas there is a lot of hand wringing and pained expressions at the importance of appreciating what we, the people supporting this cause, have and those, who will benefit from the cause, do not. The usual tone of these events is uncomfortable if not downright discordant.
In this case, it was those “underprivileged” kids who had the thing I wanted but couldn’t have. And of course, they couldn’t have it unless people of my means (and those of much much greater means) funded the program.
I am no musician, so I have only a rudimentary understanding of harmony. But I think it occurs when notes of different values each play their part at the same time. Playing together, the notes create a different, special sound that cannot be generated by a single pitch.
In other words. Do your part. Check out the Harmony Program. I am sure they would appreciate the traffic, even if you do just walk on by!