Innovation and Impact: Past Projects

Yafo Harmony

Project Description

My idea for the summer was to combine all my passions - social justice, music, and language learning - into a program where I taught a combination of individual private lessons and group classes to underprivileged residents of Yafo at the Arab-Jewish Community Center. My goal for the program: to offer much more than a standard music program.  If I succeeded by the end of my three months teaching, students would be able to view their instrument as a vehicle for social change, an opportunity to interact and create art with those from different backgrounds.

I wanted the program’s participants to equally reflect the demographics on the ground, with a focus on the non Ashkenazi-Jewish communities most marginalized. The group classes of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, consisted of contemporary music theory, ear training, and history of American Rock and Jazz music, to students whose ages ranged from as young as 7 to as a high as 61. Private lessons consisted of basic instrumental technique for trumpet, guitar, voice, and piano; for most of my students, this was their first opportunity to have regular lessons, if any at all.

This wasn’t just new for them... this was my first time teaching, and I started with at least 5 lessons and one class a day - all in a foreign language for me! Despite the struggle to fully jump into something completely unfamiliar, I was very happy with my student’s progress by the end of the summer. More importantly than improving technically (although I hope they did too!) was that they had a greater appreciation for music and the process of practicing in and of itself. Very surprisingly, getting Israelis and Palestinians to agree to play and study music together was one of the easier tasks of the project. Getting any kid to spend quality time with their instrument in the summer for the first time in their lives was a much more daunting feat.

While I wouldn’t necessarily sign up to teach this many lessons and classes again, these experiences certainly have made me value the incredibly difficult job teachers have.  The experience makes me want to teach again!