THE MISSION OF THE URBAN YOUTH HARP ENSEMBLE IS TO DELIVER QUALITY MUSICAL INSTRUCTION ON THE HARP, DEVELOP MUSIC READING SKILLS AND MUSICIANSHIP.
The Urban Youth Harp Ensemble was founded in 2000 by Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harpist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Roselyn Lewis, a longtime Atlanta public schools music teacher known for exposing students to opera and African drums.
Established as a nonprofit organization separate from the Atlanta school district, the ensemble’s goal was to give children to opportunity to play the complex and beautiful instrument. Not only are harpists in demand for weddings and other events, dedicated students may be eligible for college scholarships.
The program started with just two students at Brown Middle School. Ms. Remy Johnson taught the students on her small troubadour harp which was left at the school for the students to practice on each day.
The program grew each year. By 2004, 28 students in middle and high school were enrolled. They played harps purchased through generous donations from Billye Aaron of the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and other supporters. The students attended summer camp in North Georgia and performed at public and private events.
To accommodate growing interest among students, the ensemble relocated to the School of the Arts at Carver High School. In 2007, the organization hired a full-time harp instructor. After a decade of service, Elisabeth Remy Johnson left the organization to focus on her professional and family commitments, and Carolyn Lund Munford assumed the role of Artistic Director in 2009.
In addition to donations from private foundations and individuals, the ensemble receives financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulton County Arts Council and the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs.
Today, the program thrives under the leadership of Ms. Lewis, now retired from Atlanta Public Schools, and Artistic Director Carolyn Lund Munford, an accomplished musician and gifted teacher. The program’s primary home is at Drew Charter School, where more than 80 students ranging in age from 9 to 18 are enrolled.
The daily classes for students enrolled at Drew Charter School reaches 70 students in grades 6-10. They receive 90 minutes of instruction on alternate days. Students are grouped according to their ability level in ensemble instruction.
After School Program
The after-school program meets on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Drew Charter School. These classes are open to all students in the community, in grades 4-12.
This ensemble is comprised of four to six advanced students, who are the public performance arm of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble.