The idea for Harmony Project didn’t happen overnight. Founder David Brown had been carrying it around for a while, but didn’t know if it was even possible—to bring people together and provide them with the opportunity to sing, serve, and share. But his resolve was strong, and his experiences leading up to its launch helped shape the program. What started as a single concert has blossomed into a suite of programs grounded in music and service.
“Harmony Project is one of those organizations that draws you in, and then keeps you there,” said Douglas F. Kridler, President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation. “The balance of music and service, and the fact that Harmony successfully unites individuals from all walks of life, underscores that what they have is truly unique—it’s changing lives.”
Harmony Project was launched as a way to bring people together around a common goal. In addition to concerts and service projects throughout the community, Harmony has grown to include innovative signature programs that cast a wide net—allowing hundreds to participate. Partnerships with the Ohio Reformatory for Women, South High School, and the Commons at Buckingham and the Commons at Grant, have brought the voices and hearts of central Ohioans together— strengthening both individuals and our community.
I love the fact that we are a group of people from different racial, religious, political, and economic backgrounds who can come together and work for our community through the thread of music. The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself and others is simple... we all want the same thing, which is a better quality of life. That is easily done when we concentrate on that fact and not the things that separate us.
— Reggie Jackson, Drummer, Harmony Project
In December 2014, The Columbus Foundation named Harmony Project as a Continuous Improvement Grantee. In early 2015, a grant for $180,000 was awarded to the organization. From 2010–2015, a total of more than $530,000 in grants was awarded to Harmony Project from the Foundation, Supporting Foundations, and individual donors.
The Continuous Improvement program is designed to provide multi-year support for operating expenses, focus on strengthening institutional infrastructure, and inspire organizations that have the potential for innovative service delivery. In addition to providing financial support, the Foundation offers technical assistance and hands-on support from Foundation staff. United Schools Network is also a current Continuous Improvement Grantee. Previous Continuous Improvement Grantees are the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and easyColumbus.
“Being a Continuous Improvement Grantee has helped Harmony Project in both measurable and still immeasurable ways. It has focused our board, helped us with board development, and helped us revise our budget and look at where our priority spending should be. It has also helped in planning for our home office that will move us from the little engine that could to a city-wide movement,” David said.
Harmony builds connection. Singing on stage feels like a two-way street. I share the emotion and lessons of my life from that season, and the audience shares the emotion of their lives in the moment. We’re there for each other in a most profound way, empathically sharing and listening to each other through the music.
— Kate O'Hara, Original and Current Member of Harmony Project
A native of Louisiana, David has considered Columbus home for decades. After working in New York, Los Angeles, and a short time in New Orleans, he returned to Columbus with a dream to bring together a choir filled with people who love music. This choir isn’t about where you live or what you do. There are no barriers—geographic, racial, or socio-economic. The heart and soul of Harmony revolves around one thing— being you, whoever you are.
More than 200 people showed up for the initial meeting on the project in October 2009. At the end of 2015, between the choir and other initiatives throughout the community, Harmony Project was more than 700 voices strong.
“The idea of Harmony Project is based in music, because that is my background. Because of my skillset, I’m going to turn you into something you didn’t think you could be,” David said. “Harmony can be used to introduce people not only to each other, but to their city.”