Did you know that children are most likely to engage in risky or violent behavior between 3-6 p.m.? Harmony Project, the largest nonprofit in Los Angeles, California works “to promote the healthy growth and development of children through the study, practice and performance of music,” according to its website.

Serving nearly 2,000 students in LA, Harmony Project helps to keep kids safe during after-school hours. Furthermore, 97 percent of Harmony Project graduates go on to attend a four-year college or university; their  peers’ average is approximately 50 percent.

“Music gives children a voice, an identity and purpose,” says Harmony Project Associate Director Natalie Jackson. “When you are from a very poor and isolated neighborhood, there isn’t much that is solely yours. But when you are given an instrument and encouraged to create . . .  a beautiful process unfolds, and that is truly empowering.”

Unfortunately, many school districts are quick to cut the music programs whenever budget issues arise, but the statistics show there’s value in keeping music in schools. According to the Arete Music Academy, children who take music lessons are more likely to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who don’t study music.

“[Here at Harmony Project, we] truly believe access to quality music education should not be a privilege only reserved for those who can afford it,” Jackson says. “Supporting organizations like Harmony Project, where we provide free instruments and excellent musical instruction, is so important. Not only are we teaching children creative thinking skills while showing them persistence pays off and helping build their self-confidence, we’re also improving and enriching our community at large.”

To help spread awareness, Harmony Project holds various events throughout the year, including its annual luncheon, which takes place on Sunday, April 26 at 11 a.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The purpose of the luncheon is to celebrate 14 years of success and raise a significant portion of the funds needed for Harmony Project to continue to provide the work and services they do. This year, the nonprofit will honor the founders of Primestor Development, which was named as L.A.’s Business Journal Minority Business of the Year back in 2010.

“It’s such an inspiring event that leaves everyone uplifted and fortified,” Jackson says. “We’re so excited about this year’s surprise guests and student performances.”

For Jackson, being able to be a part of the Harmony Project staff for the past five years is more than just a job. It’s personal. “When I go to work, music is constantly around me,” she says. “Growing up in Santa Monica, I was lucky enough to have music instruction be a part of my education, but so many children in Los Angeles do not have that opportunity. Being a part of Harmony Project enables me to give the gift of music to children in Los Angeles and use it as a tool to help them develop and excel.”

As you can probably imagine, being able to change lives though music on a daily basis can be a rewarding experience. There’s one moment in particular that stands out in Jackson’s mind. Harmony Project has several choirs throughout the Los Angeles area. One of the students from the Leimert Park Community choir had the opportunity to speak at a Harmony Project event last October and what she had to say left everyone floored.

“[This little girl] had been in and out of foster care her entire childhood,” Jackson says. “She learned quickly to not trust adults and that her dreams didn’t matter, but through Harmony Project, she was given a safe space [with] no judgement. And in her words, when she joined our choir, ‘My dreams were born again.’ Her words let us know that we were truly living up to what we hope to accomplish for our students.”

For more information about the Harmony Project, visit the official website.

Princess Gabbara is a 20-something Michigan-based journalist and freelance writer. As a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, she’s contributed to a host of publications, including xoJane.com, ClutchMagOnline.com, ForHarriet.com, BlackDoctor.org, and Sesi Magazine. You can read more of her work on her blog. She also tweets @PrincessGabbara.