Margaret Martin, DrPH, MPH

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Margaret Martin is a doctor of public health and a visionary who makes communities healthier places to live.  She is the Founder of Harmony Project (www.harmony-project.org) and both the Founder and Director of Innovation and Special Projects for Harmony Project of America (www.harmonyprojectofamerica.org), which serves a growing national network of community-sponsored programs that provide Mentoring Through MusicTM to children from low-income homes as a means of positive development, social inclusion and community safety. Harmony Project engages under resourced children in tuition-free music lessons and ensemble opportunities 5 to 12 hours per week, year-round, throughout childhood, providing they remain enrolled in school.

Harmony Project students consistently defy the odds. Since 2008, more than 90% of high school seniors who have participated in Harmony Project for at least 3 years have gone on to colleges such as Dartmouth, NYU, Tulane, USC, UC Berkeley, UCLA and dozens more, despite dropout rates of 50% or more in the high crime neighborhoods where they live and little local participation in higher education. Most are the first in their families to attend college. Two have won Fulbright Awards and our first doctor, a dentist, graduated in 2015. Graduating students spend an average of 7 years in Harmony Project. While they all learn to make music, most do not seek careers in music. In fact, nearly half choose high value majors in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math.

Affiliated Harmony Project programs have launched across seven states and many more are developing. Findings of Dr. Martin’s research collaboration with Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Lab show that intensive music training significantly improves cognitive function in disadvantaged children, especially for language processing and reading. Published findings show that participating in Harmony Project for multiple years can help children offset the negative impact of poverty on their developing brains. (See:  http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu/projects/neuroeducation/index.php) This helps to explain the consistent extraordinary academic achievement of Harmony Project students. Further, learning to make increasingly challenging music over multiple years with students from diverse backgrounds and beliefs enables Harmony Project students to develop strong social skills and effectively bridge cultural divides.

Not surprisingly, Harmony Project has garnered three White House awards: Coming Up Taller in 2009, the highest honor in the nation for an arts-based youth program, the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2011, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. And in 2015 the White House and the U.S. Department of Education designated Harmony Project a ‘2015 Bright Spot in Hispanic Education’. Harmony Project has also been widely covered in national media, including NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, NPR, OWN, Voice of America, Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, among many others.