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L.A.'s Harmony Project honored at White House

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In eight short years, the Harmony Project has gone from L.A.'s toughest neighborhoods to the glitz of the White House.

On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama presented the music-education organization with the Coming Up Taller Award, which recognizes youth-oriented arts and humanities programs nationwide. Each year, 15 organizations are chosen to receive the award, which comes with a $10,000 prize.

This year’s winners were chosen from a field of 50 semifinalists. The prize recipients include New York’s Epic Theatre Center, for its Shakespeare Remix Program; Citywide Poets of Detroit; and the Young Artist Apprenticeship Program from Blaffer Gallery, at the Art Museum of the University of Houston.

Founded in 2001, L.A.'s Harmony Project provides classical-music education for low-income children. The organization is based in Hollywood but does much of its work with youth from the South Central area of L.A as well as other regions.

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The Harmony Project is also one of the partners with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s YOLA Expo Center Youth Orchestra.

Speaking by phone from Washington, Harmony founder Margaret Martin said the organization will use the $10,000 prize money to help pay for teachers and other professionals. Harmony currently has about 50 instructors and 750 students.

Martin said Harmony’s current annual budget is about $1.2 million. The organization started out in 2001 with a $9,000 grant from the Rotary Club of Hollywood.

Today’s White House ceremony is part of a day of music celebration that includes a concert featuring violinist Joshua Bell. A group of several young musicians from the Harmony Project’s Hollywood Youth Orchestra are scheduled to perform as part of the day’s events.

-- David Ng

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