Creating stronger learners, building confidence, and opening new doors through music

Harmony Overview

Harmony is an extra-curricular program in partnership with Riverview Westside School of Excellence on the West Side of St. Paul. Harmony provides third through fifth grade students with access to high quality Violin or Cello instruction and performance opportunities that complement their academic experience and boost personal development.

This program breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for students to develop a love of music and become strong learners and leaders. Though it takes nearly $3,000 per student to operate, Harmony is highly accessible with a suggested $20 participant fee per year thanks to generous donors. Upon fifth grade graduation, Harmony students are eligible to join GTCYS Philharmonia East Orchestra. Each student receives sponsored private lessons, access to an instrument, and reduced GTCYS tuition.

Harmony History

In October 2016, GTCYS launched Harmony, an El Sistema-inspired program in partnership with Riverview Elementary School on the West Side of St. Paul.

Harmony started with 18 third grade students. In 2017-18, Harmony doubled in size to serve 40 third and fourth graders three days a week instead of two. Semi-private violin lessons with a professional teaching artist were added to boost individual student progress, while four performances – including at Orchestra Hall – provide incentive to excel. Summer lessons and summer Orchestra String Camp participation helps students continue their progress outside the academic year.

2018-19 brought continued expansion as the program grew to 60 students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. Now in its fourth year, Harmony boasts a 90% student retention rate and now provides the option of Cello instruction to beginning third grade students.

Harmony alumni join GTCYS’ tiered orchestra structure, experiencing the full impact of GTCYS’ holistic programming, ultimately building valuable skills and relationships to help them succeed in school and beyond.


Harmony rehearses weekly at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in St. Paul on Saturday mornings.

Cultural and Teaching Philosophy

Our instructional approach focuses on cultivating not only musical ability, but the whole person. Harmony recruits professional musicians equally passionate about becoming highly effective music educators and influential community leaders. Harmony utilizes high quality music instruction to cultivate relationships, build character, expand networks and bridge communities.

Rigorous string instructional methods and pedagogy are combined with intentional approaches to cultural sensitivity and community relationship building. We aim to equip teachers with skills and methods to maximize human potential and effectively serve families from a diverse array of backgrounds.

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