Harlem School of the Arts at The Herb Alpert Center Skillfully Helping Students and Parents Navigate Uncertainty Using the Creative Arts

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Quick shift to online platform HSA@HOME keeps teachers and students connected through the arts in challenging times. Dance and HIP-HOP added to ensure kids are engaged both mentally and physically.

I have been so impressed with how quickly the HSA administration and teaching staff were able to get HSA@HOME up and running to continue inspiring and educating young artists. And also, how important it is for the kids to be able to stay connected.

Following the successful launch of the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) online learning community, dubbed HSA@Home, the organization has begun to add to the current roster of dance, music, theater, and art & design classes, adapted to accommodate the new social distancing requirements imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A pair of new HIP-HOP dance classes for students ages 5-6 (Thursdays, 2pm - 2:45pm), and 7-11 (Friday 3pm - 4pm), is one such example. Students are being instructed by some of HSA’s most accomplished Hip-Hop professionals, as they gain a better understanding of rhythm, learn body isolation movements, and how to dance to popular music — all from their homes.

In addition to distance learning dance classes, the organization has a full menu of art & design instructions— Advanced Drawing, Animation, Art Exploration; music — African Latin Percussion, Group Guitar, Group Violin, HSA Jazz Band; and Theatre — Intro to Musical Theatre, and Acting Techniques.

HSA@Home was born out of ingenuity and necessity. Focused on reducing the stress and anxiety that COVID-19 has placed on both parents and kids, HSA has deployed resources to help its community of over 800 students retain some semblance of normalcy, by continuing to ensure that those who had signed up for Spring Semester classes, or a full-year of class, are now able to resume their activities and continue the HSA experience online. The organization reacted early and quickly, and was able to make more than 95% of their classes interactive using the Zoom platform. The classes are not only open to current students of HSA but the organization is encouraging new students from across the nation to explore available classes. The full catalogue of classes can be found by visiting HSA@Home.

An important added benefit of the HSA@Home program is that the organization has been able to avoid laying off many of their employees, as others have been forced to do. Through the distance learning initiative, HSA has been able to keep their teaching artists employed.

The organization has also maintained constant contact with parents and students throughout the online roll out of its distance learning platform while it “continues to develop innovative ways of being together”, and helping students and families, as well as the community, weather these difficult times.

“Our staff showed great creativity and ingenuity in the development of HSA@Home in order to meet the needs of our families,” said Eric Pryor, president of HSA. “We need the arts more than ever to help us through this unprecedented time in our history,” he added.

With school districts and important resources like HSA having to physically close their doors for the foreseeable future, children need ways to socialize and to see their friends. Parents of HSA students are especially appreciative that the organization is making it possible for students to see the familiar faces of their teachers and their peers – something comforting at a time when they require a return to some semblance of normalcy.

Julia Scott, who describes herself as a proud HSA parent, found the announcement that classes would be transferred to remote learning, “a saving grace for our children and young artists.” Ms. Scott was overjoyed that her daughter is able to continue on her musical journey.

“My daughter, Sukanya Scott, who is a HSA prep student in the music department, is having wonderful lessons with her vocal coach, Nora Graham-Smith. As I sit in the other room having my coffee in the morning, I hear Sukanya and Nora doing scales and learning arias in other foreign languages. I believe the relationship between the two continues even more through this thing we call, "remote learning technology." This alternative has proven to be the answer to continuing the HSA experience in lieu of being there, in person. We look forward to the renaissance of HSA and continuing with Ms. Nora Graham-Smith. Her support, encouragement and optimism continues to support Sukanya in her love for singing and the arts,” said Julia Scott, adding a special shout out to the teacher with whom her daughter has formed a strong bond, “We miss you Nora! Hope to see you soon and all of our HSA family!”

Betty Arrington, whose daughter takes dance classes at HSA also wrote to thank the organization for resuming dance classes, adding, “My daughter and her dance community are so grateful they will be reunited. HSA has risen to the challenge of social distancing with live classes on Zoom. It is good to know that through it all, commitment to excellence at HSA endures.”

HSA is currently looking beyond the Spring Semester classes and developing “new and exciting ways for our community to stay connected online,” which includes launching virtual events, master classes, virtual performances, as well as organizing Social Media Challenges.

The Herb Alpert Foundation, which has been a key supporter of HSA, having given more than $17 million dollars to the school over the past decade, recognizes the important contributions that organizations like the Harlem School of the Arts are making in the lives of young people during the best of times.

Rona Sebastian, president of the Herb Alpert Foundation and HSA board member adds, “I have been so impressed with how quickly the HSA administration and teaching staff were able to get HSA@HOME up and running to continue inspiring and educating young artists. And also, how important it is for the kids to be able to stay connected with their peers and their art during this period of isolation.”

HSA is committed to refocusing students away from the harsh reality of social isolation; repurposing the talents of teaching artists, who would have faced unemployment, and providing much needed familiarity, continuity, and joy to students, their families and the community.

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About Harlem School of the Arts at The Herb Alpert Center
New York City’s premier community arts institution, the Harlem School of the Arts at the Herb Alpert Center stands uniquely apart as the sole provider of arts education in four disciplines: music, dance, theatre, and art & design, all within our award-winning 37,000 square foot facility. The School’s reputation for artistic rigor and excellence attracts students of diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds from the five New York City boroughs as well as Westchester County and the tristate area, which includes Connecticut and New Jersey. HSA’s alumni and faculty are counted among the most talented leaders in the arts.

For over 50-years HSA has enriched the lives of tens of thousands of people through world-class training in the arts. HSA offers its students the freedom to find and develop the artist and citizen within themselves in an environment that teaches discipline, stimulates creativity, builds self-confidence, and adds a dimension of beauty to their lives, empowering them to become the creative thinkers and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

To learn more about the Harlem School of the Arts, please visit:

About the Herb Alpert Foundation
The Herb Alpert Foundation envisions a world in which all young people are blessed with opportunities that allow them to reach their potential and lead productive and fulfilling
lives. Over the past few years, the Foundation has focused on core areas, such as “The Arts,” a broad category that includes arts education, a focus on jazz, and support to
professionals. This also includes programs that seek to use the arts to help meet the needs of underserved youth and to help build competencies that will enable them to become successful adults. The other core area is “Compassion and Well-Being,” which celebrates the positive aspects of human psychology and seeks to bring more empathy and compassionate behavior into our society. Please note: the Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals.

To learn more about the Herb Alpert Foundation please visit:

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