“Creating a Harp Program”

2024 Student Recruitment, Engagement, and Retention Award Recipient

Longwood Central School District

Middle Island, NY


An idea was born out of the pandemic to give our students an opportunity to learn an additional instrument. Our junior and senior high schools began offering our students the opportunity to learn how to play the Harp. Usually an instrument needing a network of private instructors, it is believed that we are the only school district in New York that offers the harp to our students as part of our instructional music program.


To provide an opportunity for our students to learn a beautiful, unique instrument and to showcase them to our community.

Target Audience

We targeted students in grades seven and eight because they already have three-to-four years experience on a band or orchestra instrument. Their knowledge of music notation were needed to apply their skills to the Harp. In targeting students in our senior high school, we knew the advanced, more serious student could be motivated to participate. We are currently teaching five students at the high school. This totals seven students learning harp spanning grades seven through twelve.


As we were returning from the Pandemic in the Fall of 2020, an idea was generated to give another opportunity to our music students in the form of Harp instruction. Initially, we planned to use the more familiar Pedal Harp, but the factors of cost, convenience, and ease of instruction had us purchasing Lever Harps in February, 2021.

One of our teachers had previous experience on the instrument, and joined four others in professional development opportunities with a local professional harpist funded through New York’s Arts in Education system.

In the Fall of 2021, students began lessons with the harpist and their teacher once per week at our Junior and Senior High Schools. Additional Harps were added to annual budgets and students began performing in our community for our board of education, our elementary art shows, pre-concert recitals, adjudication at a local NYSSMA Festival, and will be featured at the 2023 NYSSMA Winter Conference in Rochester.

Overview of Planning and Execution

Our director of music and fine arts, Dr. John Gallagher, approached teachers to gauge their interest in this new program. Unbeknownst to us, our high school orchestra director/department chairperson already had experience on the harp. The orchestra director at the junior high school and our two high school band directors participated in five lessons with the professional harpist during the summer, 2022. Our teachers worked with the harpist on a weekly basis throughout the 2022-2023 school year and will soon be able to instruct the program themselves.

We’ve also consulted with a New Jersey-based Harp repair technician who has instructed our teachers on care, tuning, and string replacement.

Tools and Resources

After buy-in from our teachers, word-of-mouth advertising worked very well with our students. They were excited to learn a new instrument. Working with vendors, we purchased Boulevard brand Lever Harps. After using our professional harpist’s methods of instruction, students were ready for public performance.

Marketing and Promotion

Using our state-wide network of music educators and school arts leaders, it is believed that we are offering the only school-based harp instruction program in New York. Additional advocacy efforts consisted of word-of-mouth advertising by involved students and their families, and the public at large after hearing the ensemble perform at public events. In December, 2023, we will be featured at our state’s All State/Winter Conference in Rochester, NY.


Seven Harps at $3,500 = $24,500
One year of Instruction for teachers and students from Professional Harpist – $15,000
One year of Instruction for students from Longwood teachers – $20,000

Total cost of Program – $59,500


The challenge was always focused on whether students would be interested in learning how to play this unique instrument. We believed students would enjoy it, and the program is showing slow, reasonable growth.

Success/Effectiveness Measurement

We believe continued student interest and the results they are seeing in relation to adjudication festival scores and compliments earned from our community support this.

Community Impact

Parents of younger students are anxious to have their children learn how to play the Harp after seeing and hearing the ensemble perform at elementary art shows and pre-concert recitals. Our harp ensemble was also featured at a Board of Education meeting.

Advice for others?

Music programs are designed to give students many opportunities to learn musical instruments. Offering instruction on the Harp enables students to appreciate the level of knowledge they already have and how they can apply it to another instrument.

Supporting Materials

Google Photo Folder – Harp Performance for Board of Education

Google Photo Folder – High School Rehearsal

Google Photo Folder – Junior High School Rehearsal

Application to Perform at 2023 NYSSMA Winter Conference