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Watch Learning Matters – Harmony Program: an After School Music Program for Under-Privileged Kids


This aired on PBS NewsHour on February 24, 2012; it was produced by the Learning Matters group, specifically Cat McGrath and John Merrow. It looks at the Harmony Program out of CUNY in NYC, which provides after-school music education to under-privileged children. That program is modeled off El Sistema, a famed Venezuelan program of the same nature. For more resources on all this, consult

The Harmony program consists of a 2 hour after school group class on their instrument every day, plus practice on nights and weekends.  That’s about 500 hours of practice during the school year, and 300 hours of group instruction.  This could cost the family thousands of dollars a year, but is provided for free through private donations.   Students are given donated instruments to use for their instruction.

Having daily reinforcement of the music concepts is a brilliant approach, because with that much support it is impossible for a student to fail.  With our normal piano lesson or voice lesson program, students meet with their teacher once per week.  It is up to the student and parent’s motivation at home to touch back in on their studies each day in between lessons.  Since practice schedules very, students can progress at very different speeds.  A program like this one, that makes sure students are working on their instruments every day, can really ensure consistent success.

Students in the Harmony program are more likely to attend school regularly, and perform better in school, compared to their peers.  “Sometimes it’s hard not to smile,” says Julianne, a 5th grader in the Harmony program, “Every day after school when I come into Harmony, when I play that first note it makes me smile.”

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