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Manna House's mission is to instill self confidence in the residents of East Harlem, particularly the young, and to provide them with the basic tools to be successful in any endeavor through education and participation in the performing arts.
Manna House Workshops, Inc., was founded in 1967 by Gloria DeNard as a cultural education center for the culturally and economically disadvantaged residents of East Harlem (Community Board 11). Manna House was the first organization in East Harlem solely dedicated to the performing arts and that viewed the performing arts as an alternative to the unwholesome, often violent, and sometimes drug related activities that have been seducing the young people and destroying our communities. Recognizing the boundless creativity and talent that is unappreciated and undeveloped in low income neighborhoods, a unique music education program was established offering low cost professional instruction to students of all ages. With the establishment of Manna House, children within our community were given the opportunity to learn from and interact with successful professional musicians. Since the establishment of Manna House Workshops Inc. 33 years ago, the organization has developed and put into effect a wide range of program activities that reflect and fulfill the mission to instill self confidence in the residents of East Harlem, particularly the young, and to provide them with the basic tools to be successful in any endeavor through education and participation in the performing arts. Utilizing Jazz music (African-American, Caribbean, European, and Latin influences) as the primary vehicle, Manna House has introduced music and educated thousands of children and adults in the musical disciplines by using a medium that reflects the multi-ethnic culture and history of the East Harlem community and its residents. Through Manna House's efforts, music education has been provided to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it, while increasing awareness of the rich contributions of Jazz to American culture. Manna House Workshops Inc. has seen evidence that the program activities have given neighborhood youth an alternative to the drugs and crime which are so prevalent in the East Harlem community while providing an employable skill in the performing arts as is evident by the many working professionals that once attended and excelled at Manna House. II. Program Objectives One of the primary objectives of the Manna House programs is to attract at-risk young people by exposing them to the wonder of music, i.e. having them witness performances, interact with professional musicians, participate in individual and group instruction, and finally, having them perform in front of audiences. The experience of success and achievement in music instruction is the beginning of the discovery of the creative power within that builds self esteem. The beauty of music is that it is a universal language, available to people of all ages, from all backgrounds. Music instruction is ideal for young people with short attention spans and allows the instructor to give positive reinforcement to those who have had little instructional accomplishment in their life. Perhaps more importantly, our target population is comprised of very creative and trouble-prone youngsters that have found that music and musicianship are respected and admired by the rest of society. Codes of toughness, machismo, and violence are suspended when confronted by the power of the human voice and the mystery of man made instruments. Programs at Manna House include the following: Manna House Music Education Program - This program provides ongoing professional music training at low cost on a one-on-one basis to people of all ages, ethnicity's and cultural backgrounds. Students are taught music on a variety of instruments in the Jazz idiom. Eighty percent of the students enrolled in this program are between the ages of 5 and 16. Eight professional musicians teach private lessons and workshops to approximately 150 students each week. Classes are given in classical and Jazz piano, voice, guitar, bass, drums, woodwinds, brass, sight-singing, Jazz theory, and improvisation. All disciplines focus on developing musicianship, technical facility and creative expression. This serves as a means of personal discipline and pleasure as well as preparation for advanced training and careers in the performing arts for those with special talent and inclination. Manna House Lecture Demonstrations & Arts in Education Program - This school-based program takes professional musicians into the community's public and alternative schools. The outreach program offers three services: (1) the lecture demonstration series usually consist of two to five musicians (a pianist, singer and other instrumentalist) who demonstrate styles of Jazz from the early years to the present. The lecture demonstrations are performed by representatives of the African-American and Latino cultures that originated and enhanced the Jazz art form. The young audiences participate by singing the demonstrated rhythms and learn the different musical forms and are introduced to the artists that created them. (2) the arts-in-education program is an artist-in-residence program which utilizes Jazz music and stresses the harmony between African American, Latino, Asian and European cultures. Collaborating with the public school teacher's curriculum, the program integrates elements of music and social studies for the school year. In addition, students are introduced to instruments, folk songs and rhythms that are indigenous to various cultures. The arts-in-education program screens public school students and determines their level of talent and interest in the performing arts and provides them with scholarship assistance to attend the Manna House Music Education program. Manna House MEEE (Music for Entertainment, Education and Enlightenment) Concert Series - Begun in 1980, the MEEE Concert Series provides a stage and audience for seasoned and emerging professional minority musicians and composers of Jazz and contemporary American music. The concerts have taken place in or near low-income neighborhoods such as The Museum of the City of New York, Jackie Robinson JHS and St. Peter's Lutheran Church. These performances are open to the general public and the audience size has ranged from 50 to 300 per concert depending on the venue. The monthly series of concerts are offered between February and June of each year and two additional student concerts with guest artists are held every June and August. Past concerts have included a 4-piece band playing contemporary compositions to an 18-piece orchestra playing Duke Ellington's music. Performing artists have included, George Benson, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Barry Harris, Reggie Workman, Bill Saxton and Jimmy Owens, just to name a few. A 1991 grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts enabled Manna House to completely renovate the first floor facility and construct the Manna Mini theatre. The Manna Mini theatre is currently the primary site for the MEEE Jazz Concert Series and is available to the community at a modest rental fee. In 1999 renovation of the second floor began. The entire floor is to be remodeled with two additional classrooms, a library, and an audio/video studio. Manna House Ballet, Tap and Jazz Dance Instruction - Dance instruction provides one hour classes where students can take beginner, intermediate or advanced lessons in Ballet, Tap and Jazz Dance. In the Ballet classes, students learn discipline, alignment, agility and grace through centering exercises, exercises at the barre and eventually pointe classes. Jazz Dance classes include African and Ballet techniques. Works from African percussion compositions and urban contemporary music are choreographed by the Manna House instructor. During the summer an Alvin Ailey instructor offers ten free classes to students. Participants perform in the Annual Student Concerts and in outdoor venues during August. Manna House Summer Theatre And Music Program (SummerTAM) - This program provides music education and recreation 3-5 days a week through July and August for children ages 6 through 16. With the assistance of 4 music instructors, 2 counselors and 4 youth workers, children learn skills that can provide hours of pleasure while preparing them for further music study and or future employment in their adult years. Additionally, the children are taken on field trips to cultural events (Concerts, Plays and Exhibits), that are prevalent around the city during the summer months. The field trips expose the children, often for the first time, to live performances and different forms of artistic expression. The summer program culminates with an outdoor performance and concert featuring a "name act" from the Jazz or entertainment field and performances by the students. Summer TAM students perform to the delight of their parents and friends and the children gain a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. Teenagers from the New York City Youth Board's Summer Youth Employment Program are hired as staff members for the SummerTAM Program. Manna Monthly Cable TV Show, "The Best Kept Secret" - This is a monthly video program highlighting the on-going achievements of our students and faculty on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, Channel 67. The cable show also features special performances by some of today's outstanding Jazz artists. Started in 1996, "The Best Kept Secret" Cable show is taped in our facility and has broadened our outreach. The program airs the first Saturday of every month at 10:00 a.m. The show is hosted by Manna House Workshop's Executive Director, Ms. Gloria DeNard. Other Manna House activities include life affirming workshops that cover such topics as Yoga, Live Food Preparation and Swing Dance. Adult members learn dances to 40's 50's and 60's music provided by a juke box and an occasional live band. Invigorating vegetable and nectar cocktails are served to whet the whistle of the members and put pep in their steps. This program is attended by individuals who are particularly interested in American and Latin dance styles. Although the majority of Manna House students and audience resides in East Harlem, other participants come from New Jersey and the five boroughs. Students have come from as far away as Japan and Germany to undertake Jazz studies
- Gloria DeNard
- (212) 722-8223
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