Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Blueprint for Action Part II - Implementation & Vision for Musical Service in Underserved Youth Communities

Blueprint for Action 

By gathering input and perspectives from my peers, it became more clear that musical service is not prioritized in the “outreach” structures within performance-oriented music organizations. Due to the lack of emphasis on musical service in existing performance-based student organizations at Harvard, I decided to press on and continue with my original plan: to implement a new student-led, music-based service organization at Harvard that specifically serves underprivileged children in the Greater Boston area. 

I discerned that the best way to build this organization on a solid foundation of support and mentorship, was to create a new music-based service organization under the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA). There are two already existing music-based service organizations within PBHA: HARMONY and MINHUET. Initially, the possibility of potentially expanding on one of these two organizations seemed like a more feasible effort. However, after conversing with members of the organization as well as previous directors of both programs, it was very apparent that the overall mission, as well as populations served by HARMONY and MINHUET are quite different from the vision I hope to pursue. HARMONY’s focus is on music education, and student musicians participate in outreach to Boston schools, mentoring younger students and exposing them to classical music. The mission of HARMONY seems to be more heavily focused on music education for youth, rather than service for healing. MINHUET is an organization that sends student musicians specifically to hospitals and nursing homes to hold performances; the population that MINHUET serves seems to be quite limited and specific to nursing home and medical settings. Therefore, I decided to proceed by building a new music-based service organization within PBHA, rather than an expansion of an existing organization. 

The process of becoming a PBHA organization is not an easy, quick process. There is a robust application/approval process that must be completed. PBHA’s Student Development Chair, Talia Levitt offered advice on what the committee prioritizes when approving new student organizations: “PBHA won’t create any program without the express need of a community. Since we’re all about centering communities and responding to urgent needs, the "community support letter" is really the most important thing you need!”

Partnership with Young Audiences for Learning 

To identify whether there is a real urgent need to serve underprivileged youth communities through music engagement, I reached out to various non-profit organizations in the Greater Boston area that focus on creative art therapy and music for social change. I was able to connect and interview with Dr. Gail Zarren, the Program Director of a non-profit organization called Young Audiences Arts for Learning, where she specifically spearheads two programs: Horizons for Homeless Children, and Healing Arts for Kids. Horizons for Homeless Children brings music engagement to children who are facing homelessness, and Healing Arts for Kids brings interactive, collaborative music engagement to children with physical and psychological disabilities within special needs schools. Dr. Zarren strongly emphasized the importance and powerful impact of serving these specific youth populations that struggle from chronic instability and hardship, and highlighted the urgent need for committed volunteers. Through my conversations with Dr. Zarren, we have agreed to enter into a partnership between Young Audiences Arts for Learning, and the new music-based service organization that I plan to implement in the near future. There is a clear need in underserved youth populations, such as homeless children and children with special needs in the Greater Boston area, and given the benefits of music on mental and emotional wellbeing, musical service would be a powerful way to bring healing and growth to these populations.

Recommendations & Vision for Leadership Structure

Harvard Medical School Professor/Longwood Orchestra Member, Dr. Lisa Wong’s input was instrumental in the brainstorming process for the leadership structure of the new student organization. When asked how to garner support and foster unification for musical service amongst student musicians at Harvard, Dr. Wong emphasized the importance of “believing in the same vision” and everyone having a “genuine heart for the population you are serving, so that musicians will commit to the cause, and take the music-making seriously.” To attract student musicians and keep them engaged and committed to the vision of the organization, it is crucial that they are well-educated on the benefits of music (why we are doing this), as well as the desperate need for creative arts therapy to reach underserved populations. 

Participation in regular member training and workshops led by student leaders and Dr. Zarren would be essential. Furthermore, having formal leadership teams that focus on logistical matters, developing and maintaining partnerships with external organizations, as well as internal community-building are crucial for successful functioning of the organization. Although this is not finalized, based on advice from both Dr. Zarren and Dr. Wong, below is the leadership structure I hope to implement in order to cover all facets of my vision for this new music-based service organization. 



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