The Harp Therapy Outreach Program offers harp and music instruction to at-risk youth and students with mental and physical disabilities, including mental retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, and other emotional and neurological disorders.
The Harp Therapy Outreach Program, a national first, was founded in 1995 as an outgrowth of the American Youth Harp Ensemble. Today, it has matured into a nationally recognized program pairing youth mentors with disabled peers through partnerships with community agencies and schools region-wide.
This life-transforming experience not only provides these students healthy social interactions with their peers, from whom they are often isolated, but also results in clinically documented improvements in behavior and occupational motor skills. An innovative program that utilizes the harp and music instruction to develop musical, psychosocial, and physical skills in disabled children and youth, enabling them to build life and social skills and develop friendships and peer groups that otherwise would be difficult to acquire.
Through the program, students with disabilities build life and social skills and develop friendships and peer groups, opportunities critical for but seldom available to teens with disabilities. Mentor students benefit through experience in a viable application of their music study, giving them direction and strengthening their chances for a college education and a career in music.
In addition to peer mentors, a professional harpist/educator, music therapist and occupational therapist staff classes. A weekly evaluation tool is used to measure the efficacy of the harp as a therapeutic tool: progress in musical, psychosocial and physical goals continue to be recorded.
In June of 2003 and December of 2004, the Harp Therapy Outreach Program was featured locally and nationally on the PBS children's program, ZOOM!
- The Harp Therapy Outreach Program began in 1995 with one afterschool class. We now offer three classes per week, 114 classes per year. Students perform an average of 14 concerts a year which have included state-wide and national conferences.
- All students participate tuition-free.
- Current partners include the Resources for Independent Living Center (RILC), a transitioning facility for youth with disabilities and Music Therapy Associates of Richmond, a referral agency. We also have an informal partnership with Northstar Academy.
- The program is staffed and supervised by Melissa Owens, music therapist; Maureen Eberhardt, from partner organization RILC; Aponi Brunson and Lynnelle Ediger, AYHE Harp Faculty, as well as student mentors.
- All mentors are required to go through specialized training prior to participation.
- All harp therapy students are evaluated by our music therapist for readiness prior to start.
- Goals are developed for students to help them to not only during class, but also to work toward accomplishing goals in everyday life.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING......................................................................................
"Our son, Bert, who has autism spectrum disorder, has participated in the HARP Therapy Outreach Program for two years. As well as providing pure enjoyment, the lessons help Bert with focus, hand-eye coordination, listening skills, and sense of accomplishment. Bert is so proud when he plays a scale or simple tune from a page of written music. He often comes out of the lesson with a big smile, saying 'I did it!'"
C. Kirby & E. Stickley, parents of Bert