A large number of youngsters are going to be making a lot of noise next Wednesday.
That's a good thing. It is the fourth annual Long Beach Harmony Project Gala from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the Terrace Theater foyer. The event is free and open to the public.
Students join the program in the second grade and continue to have music lessons until they graduate from high school. The Long Beach Unified School District covers the costs of the music instruction, the instruments, music books and buses. The Long Beach Education Foundation works with the project team to raise money for the items LBUSD cannot pay for. Students are provided music lessons for four hours per week — one after-school lesson each week and a three-hour music teaching seminar on Saturdays.
“It’s a feel-good event and we get help from the best community,” Judy Seal, Long Beach Education Foundation executive director, said.
The Harmony Project was started in Los Angeles by Dr. Margaret Martin in 2001 as a public health intervention to build healthier communities by investing in the positive development of children through music. Affiliate sites are located from San Francisco to New Orleans to Hudson, New York.
Police Chief Robert Luna has been the driving force of the Long Beach project from the outset five years ago, convincing a focus group of 110 people from across Long Beach to agree that this undertaking would be a good investment.
“This program promotes partnerships and collaboration to help the youth in our community,” Luna said by email. “It creates opportunities and hope for kids to stay in school, serve their community and get civically engaged. We are not only preventing crime, we are building a foundation for a healthier community.”
“Chief Luna is one of the most amazing human beings I have met,” Seal said. “He has been carrying the torch for this music program since LBUSD actually said, ‘Yes, we will do it.’ If there is an opposite to youth violence and crime, the Long Beach Harmony Project is it. And for some of us who have been witness to the unbearable, gut-wrenching pain of those who have lost a child through youth violence, the Long Beach Harmony Project is our first aid for our hearts.”
According to the Harmony Project website, since 2008 90 percent or more of the high school seniors who participated in the project for at least three years went on to college and most of the students come from neighborhoods where high school dropout rates approach or exceed 50 percent. The project boasts of two Fulbright scholars among their graduates.
“This is our fourth year in a row and the number of students participating in the program has gone from 74 to 315 musicians,” Seal said. “We will have 75 kids from the project who will perform Dec. 12.”
She said 100 percent of the money donated to the project will go to the program for specific uses.
“It is so amazing,” Seal said. “The kids take their violins home. When they outgrow them, they turn them in and get a brand-new instrument. That’s how much the community loves music. That’s how much they love these children.”
The event Wednesday is free to attend. The Terrace Theater is at 300 E. Ocean Blvd.