The citywide choir moves into more spacious digs.
The Harmony Project finally has room to breathe. In October, the fast-growing citywide choir, dedicated to bringing about social change through music, moved into the first floor of the historic Lincoln Theatre on Long Street in the King-Lincoln neighborhood just east of Downtown.
Founder David Brown is thrilled with the new 25,000-square-foot location in a former storefront, which includes both office space and room for hosting community meetings and large Harmony Project gatherings. "The choir is the face of the Harmony organization," says Brown during an uncommon relaxed moment in the main office, while a construction crew continues touch-up work nearby. "This will become the face of the mission, because people can just walk in."
The Harmony Project started in a one-room studio space in 2009 with Brown creating and conducting the adult choir, which now boasts a robust 230 members, with 400 people on the waiting list, that performs at the Ohio Theatre twice a year. It has expanded to include youth music programs with 275 members, as well as a prison choir.
That's the music part. The giving-back part is even more extensive, with all participants committing to community service. That includes cleaning up neighborhoods, singing to children in a South African hospice, collecting toys for needy kids and raising money for after-school programs.
Supported by private and public grants, the project keeps growing, and organizers spent several years trying to find the right office space. The planned renovation of an old Franklinton church fell through after costs shot up to $2.5 million, and that's when the Lincoln Theatre space was offered. Brown says his group used $470,000 of a $750,000 city grant to renovate and buy furniture and supplies for the space, which it rents from the city.
The new location is particularly special for choir member Bunny Neal, who grew up on the Near East Side. "This is my home, and I was brought up with a sense of community and giving back," says Neal, taking a break from painting a mural in the community-room space. "Music and giving is all one and the same."
For Brown, the new office will allow him to expand the project. "It'll be bigger and better."