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Harmony Project: Music program aimed at helping lower-income students in Tulsa

With the training comes the opportunity for the children to perform. In September, they played with the Tulsa Symphony to a sold-out crowd. (KTUL)

At home, Jaqueline lives in a world of castles and princesses.

Next to a pink castle in her room, she has a basket full of Disney princesses.

“I don’t know which one plays the violin,” said Jaqueline, while wearing her Elsa costume. “Here’s Cinderella!”

When she’s not playing dress-up with her sister, Jaqueline’s playing her violin. She's a princess by night and just your average student by day.

“A good title of this story would be” whispered Jaqueline while studying.

It’s quiet in her small classroom at Kendall Whittier in Tulsa. Jaqueline and her peers all have pencils, books and backpacks. There’s also one other thing they’re carrying -- violin cases.

“You are giving a gift to people that are listening,” said Jaqueline’s violin teacher, Mr. Michael.

Seven-year-old Jaqueline and 60 other students are part of the Harmony Project Tulsa. The program targets at-risk children and teaches them how to play an instrument every day after school.

Kathy Rad, with the Harmony Project Tulsa, says she realized Tulsa needed the program in 2014. According to the Harmony Project, by fourth grade lower-income children in every race are an average of two grade levels behind their more affluent peers. By eighth grade, the gap increases to three years. By 12th grade, the gap increases to four years.

“Which can happen, being recruited into a gang in second grade. It’s happened at Kendall Whittier,” said Rad. “(However) they’re (now) recruited into our music gang.”

Rad starts working with students in Pre-K and intends to follow their progress all the way through high school.

“They come to school more often because of our program,” said Rad.

The afterschool program has three different sessions, tutoring, music lessons, and music theory. It’s completely free to the students that participate.

She says that people constantly ask her to bring Harmony Project Tulsa to their school. But she says there’s one major reason why she can’t -- funding.

“If anybody wants to make a donation, we could sure use it,” said Rad.

With the training comes the opportunity for the children to perform. In September, they played with the Tulsa Symphony to a sold-out crowd.

Jaqueline was there and says she got to play her favorite song -- The Star Spangled Banner.

“Because it’s from the flag of the United States,” said Jaqueline.

When we asked if she was nervous she said no because it’s not something that she’s embarrassed of, it’s something she’s proud of.

She says her parents have the same reaction, “They’re so proud.”

While performances in front of hundreds of people are exciting, she says her lessons with Mr. Michael are her favorite.

“It makes me feel happy because when you practice, you will learn more songs,” said Jaqueline.

The Harmony Project Tulsa is holding its second-anniversary concert Thursday, Sept. 22. The event is free and will go from 7 to 8 p.m. It will be at the Gussman Concert Hall in the Lorton Performance Center at the University of Tulsa. Channel 8's Maureen Wurtz is emceeing the concert.

To learn more about Harmony Project Tulsa, click here.

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