The Harmony Project is an award-winning nonprofit organization that targets at-risk youth in underserved areas of Los Angeles by promoting positive youth development through ongoing, year-round music lessons and ensemble participation.

“Our mission is to promote the healthy growth and development of children through the study, practice and performance of music and to build healthier communities by investing in the positive development of children through music,” said founder Margaret Martin.

The organization also strives to develop children as musical ambassadors of peace, hope and understanding among people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. It also gives instruments and instruction to children who otherwise might not have access to it.

The concept for the Harmony Project began with the idea that young people from low-income families should have the chance to learn music, and to develop themselves and their communities through music.

The Leimert Park community is an integral hub in the Harmony Project. One of the newest programs is the Hip Hop Orchestra, which meets weekly with students learning a new song the first hour of rehearsal, while the second hour is spent performing with talented artists who come in to share this musical experience with the children and their families. This past year the Hip Hop Orchestra’s students had the opportunity to perform with Oleta Adams, Loretta Devine, Debbie Allen Dance Company and Christopher Cross. There is also a Jazz band led by Amos Delone.

Collaboration is one of the core values of the organization. “We help our students learn to collaborate with one another in orchestras and classes, and to collaborate within their own families,” said Martin. “Students have now begun to give lessons to less-advanced peers through our Peer Mentor program. Teachers, staff and board members help one another learn and grow.”

Harmony Project’s rapid growth has been sustained through collaborations with community partners like L.A. City College, the L.A. Philharmonic, Expo Center, and L.A. Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell.

“Harmony Project students develop responsibility by managing their time, practicing their instruments, and learning the material that is assigned to them,” said Martin. “Orchestra members are responsible to one another, and the quality of a performance demonstrates the contribution of each member. Through Harmony, students learn to take responsibility for their own growth and development, and to help their fellow students learn. As they develop, students also learn they have a responsibility to lend a hand and give back to their community. It helps them to become responsible citizens,” she continued.

For more information about the Harmony Project, visit the website at www.harmony-project.org