Los Angeles Philharmonic harpist Lou Anne Neill is the director of the "Harp in Our Public Schools Project" at inner-city schools here in Los Angeles. In March, 2011 the harp students at Moffett Elementary school created a video to send to the children of Japan who have been affected by the recent earthquakes and tsunami disasters. Here's Lou Anne's report on this inspirational video.
The Harp in Our Public Schools Project, which is sponsored by the Young Musicians Foundation, has been teaching harp at Moffett Elementary for 5 years. We have also expanded to Lennox Middle School and the Lennox Find Arts Academy. Currently, we have 95 students in the Lennox School District studying the harp! Our teachers are Lou Anne Neill, Director, Amy Shulman, Carrol Robbins, and Jacque Marshall. Claire Pettengill and Shauna Kent are our teaching assistants. Our middle school harp students have performed as featured soloists at the Hollywood Bowl and at Walt Disney Concert Hall as members of YOLA - Youth Orchestra LA.
The story of the Sakura video began only 10 days before the performance on March 29, 2011. The subject of the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan had come up in one of the classes and I could tell that the students wanted to talk about it. Then Briceida Montes, a fifth grader and a third-year harp student, said in a very excited voice, "Why don't we make a video of Sakura and send it to the children of Japan!"
It didn't take long for everything to unfold. Last year, the third graders had learned Sylvia Woods' arrangement of "Cherry Blooms," (from the "Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp" book) so the now fourth graders as well as our fifth graders got to work relearning the piece. As the days progressed, the children became more and more excited. When we told them that the video would be seen by thousands of children in Japan, they realized that their gift of music would actually help lift spirits.
Their enthusiasm was infectious. Some very artistic parents created the branches of the cherry tree that you see on the back curtain. They cut out hundreds of cherry blossom flowers, and students in the third grade classes wrote messages at the center of each flower to the children of Japan. These flowers will be sent to Japan along with the video.
This was an opportunity for our harp students to do something to help in the face of such devastation in Japan. They learned that they had the ability to reach out and, with their gift of music, communicate their compassion to those in need.
The Director of our always supportive sponsor, the Young Musicians Foundation, brought to the concert members of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce as well as the Japanese press. One of these guests brought a real branch of a just-bloomed cherry blossom tree which can be seen at the beginning of the video.
For the concert, we had 21 harp students play 21 Dusty Strings harps. There were 18 Dusty Strings Ravenna 26 harps and 3 Dusty Strings FH36 harps. The harps came not only from Moffett, but also from our 2 other schools in the Lennox School District.