David Ushery to Host Boys & Girls Harbor Black History Month Celebration



February 28, 2011 6:00 pm

Hosted by David Ushery, Anchor, WNBC News 4

Featuring GESTURES Dance Ensemble

East Harlem,  New York –  Boys & Girls  Harbor is pleased to present “Our Stories, Our Voices 2011” a program of music, dance and theater performed by Harbor students on February 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm in celebration of Black History with notable honorees such as Terrie Williams and special guests. Serving as the evening’s host is David Ushery, Anchor, WNBC News 4.

Inspired by heroes of the past, by teachers and leaders of the present, and by their own dreams of the future, students will rejoice in the triumphs of the African American experience. The event will be held in the Teatro Heckscher located at  1230 Fifth Avenue, between 104th street and 105th Street on Fifth Avenue at 6:00 pm.  Admission to the performance is $25 if prepaid, and $35 at the door.  Following the performance there will be a reception at El Café.  Admission to the performance and reception is $100.

To purchase tickets for the program, the reception, or both, or if you just wish to make a donation to  Boys & Girls  Harbor, you may go to http://www.NYCharities.org, and search by the name/date of this program or by our organization’s name.  For further information, contact Nina Olson, Development, 212-427-2244, ext. 577 or nolson@theharbor.org

“Our Stories, Our Voices” is a historical reflection of African American life in America . Through the eyes of school children, this 50-minute performance piece traces the journey of heroes and every day people through time and pivotal historic moments. Incorporating music, dance and theater, the performance showcases the talents of Boys & Girls Harbor students and will feature the renowned GESTURES Dance Ensemble as they represent the historic, creative and human spirit that helped define the accomplishments of African Americans.

“Our Stories, Our Voices 2011” conceived by Nina Klyvert-Lawson, Artistic Director of Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, is written and directed by the Conservatory’s Theater Arts Coordinator, Michael Awusie. This work is supported by the Conservatory’s gifted teaching artists Maureen Brown (Vocal Instructor), accompanist/arranger Katsuko Tanaka, Latisha Cunningham (Dance Instructor/Choreographer), Junior Education After School teacher, Raymond Frazer (STEP Instructor) and Ramon Rodriguez’s Conservatory Ensemble.


Dance and Theater Auditions

Dear Friends,

With registration underway, auditions for our Pre-Professional Programs in dance and theater are right around the corner. These programs develop teenage talent with a curriculum including individual lessons, a variety of technique classes and special ensembles, workshops and public performances.  In addition, the Harbor faculty of professional teaching artists provides students with one-on-one counseling, professional management and direction, advice about and preparations for auditions and competitions.

The goal of the Pre-Professional program is to prepare students for entry into specialized performing arts high schools and colleges and ultimately professional careers in the performing arts. Students in the Pre-Professional Program are all on partial scholarship. Program acceptance is based on audition. Auditions are held at our home site located on One East 104th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Audition Schedule

LEAP Dance Training Program: Friday, September, 17, 4:00 pm.  Calling all high school bound students, male and female, preparing for entry into dance programs of specialized high schools! Students ages 11 to 13 with at least three years of consistent dance training are interviewed, and audition to participate in this unique training program. To arrange an audition please call Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570, or Naomi Shimashita at extension 553.

GESTURES Dance Ensemble: Friday, October 1, 4:30 pm.  GESTURES, the pre-professional resident dance company of Harbor Conservatory is a performance workshop for students, ages 13 to 19.  Five years of technical training required in order to audition. Acceptance into the Gestures Dance Ensemble gives a serious dance student the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a professional company. From challenging rehearsals to fully produced performances that are open to the public. This is an intense, accelerated program. Only those with strong commitment and desire to pursue rigorous dance training need apply. To arrange to audition please call Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570 or Naomi Shimashita at extension 553.

Theater Repertory Production: Saturday, September 25, 4:00 pm. Theater Repertory Production class is for students ages 12- 19 who have at least two years of formal theater training. There will be two full-scale end-of-semester Classical, Contemporary, or original productions, in which students will collectively analyze a script, create characters, and perform before a live audience! This class is meant for the serious-minded student who is interested in pursuing a career in the Theater. To arrange an audition please call Michael Awusie at 212/427-2244 ext. 558.

Musical Theater Kids: Friday, September 17, 4:30 pm. This intensive class for students ages 12 – 19 expands on the union of voice, dance, and theater to weave stories with the objective of preparing students for the demands and expectations of the professional world of Musical Theater. Students will be taught numerous dance numbers and vocal arrangements, all while putting scenes on their feet for an audience! To arrange an audition please call Michael Awusie at 212/427-2244 ext. 558.

Nina Gale Olson
Director of External Affairs

Class Review Series: GESTURES and LEAP

Dear Friends,

This post marks the beginning of my “Class Review Series”.  I will be attending a variety of our classes here at the Conservatory, and giving you my opinions on them.  As Special Projects Coordinator here at the Harbor, I have no professional arts training, and know little about dance or theater.  I am hoping these reviews give you an “everyman’s” idea of how the classes are run, especially for parents interested in learning about our classes here.  The reviews will occasionally be supplemented with an interview from the teachers, students, or whatever else we believe gives you the most accurate picture of what our classes are like.

Last Friday, I attended a LEAP class and a GESTURES class.  Lets begin with LEAP, a dance program for students 11-14 who are focused on gaining acceptance into specialized dance programs.  The class I attended was taught by Blanca Alonso, and focused on the ballet aspect of dance.  The class started with the students warming up on bars, which I found out from Naomi (Assistant to the Dance Director and another one of our instructors) is a typical ballet warm up.  Blanca quickly went through instructions, then turned on music for the students to do specific movements to, which seemed geared towards strengthening the lower body and developing better technique.  The students showed great focus, particularly for their age, while Blanca is strict but upbeat.  She gets her point across to the students very clearly, and her passion is palpable.  Blanca is fully aware of everything going on in her classroom, making general instructions to the class while correcting specific mistakes by individual students.  Overall, the class seemed like a great building block for these young dance students .

GESTURES, the conservatory’s pre-professional dance company, was completely different.  The skill level of these older, experienced students is breathtaking.  The pure physicality of their motions struck me immediately.  These students are strong physically and very, very talented dancers.  Their movements are fast and the choreography is complex, requiring incredible body control and focus.  I found myself wishing I could have that sort of body control for just one day.  Nina Klyvert Lawson (Artistic and Dance Director) is the teacher for this particular class.  Nina is a vocal leader, and immediately assumes respect from the class.  The students all know what to do, the instructions focus on how to do it.  While Nina is clearly a stickler for perfection, she has the rare ability to keep the mood in the classroom light, but serious.  There are lots of jokes and laughter, but a loss of focus is not tolerated.  I saw the group perform two very different pieces.  The group was able to channel intensity and drama to a classical piece (in the first piece) just as well as fun and energy to a Latin song (the second piece).  After each run through, the students discussed what they could improve amongst themselves before being critiqued by Nina.

I really enjoyed attending these classes because it gave me some insight into the world of dance at the conservatory.  While I knew we had many talented dancers here, it was fascinating to see exactly what goes into nurturing that talent.  The students are driven, and the teachers know how to get the most out of the dancers.

Upcoming Events and Summer Programs

Hello Friends,

Here is a list of the upcoming events here at the Harbor Conservatory, along with a description of our summer programs:

May 7, 2010                   Mother’s Day Vocal Concert                                                              Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 5, 2010                 Theater Repertory Co. Performance                                      Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 7, 2010                  Musical Theater Workshop                                                                       Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 9, 2010                  The All Jazz Ensemble                                                                             Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 11, 2010                 Annual Vocal Recital                                                                                Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 12, 2010                 Footworks Dance Recital                                                                          HOSTOS Center for Arts

June 14, 2010                 Salute to Achievement                                                                             Featuring Harbor Conservatory’s 40 Anniversary                                         Mandarin Oriental

June 18, 19, 2010            GESTURES Dance Ensemble                                                                     Ailey Citigroup Theater

June 20, 2010                 Awards Music Recital                                                                               TBA

Registration Begins on June 28, 2010

July 6 – August 13: Summer Semester for Music students only.

July 6th – to July 17th: CLASSICAL MUSIC INTENSIVE for children ages 7-14, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Appropriate for both beginners and intermediate students. * All interested students or parents should contact the specific program director at 212-427- 2244, Dr. Martin Soderberg, Classical Music: ext. 557

July 2nd – to July 16th: MUSICAL THEATER INTENSIVE for youngsters’ ages 12-17, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm For beginners and intermediate students who love to perform and would like to learn more about musical theater. *All interested students or parents should contact the specific program director at 212-427- 2244 *Musical Theater: ext. 570/558, Nina Klyvert-Lawson/Michael Awusie

Conservatory Founder Sandy Owen Interview

Dear Friends,

Several weeks ago I interviewed Conservatory Founder Sandy Owen.  I found our conversation mesmerizing, as I learned both her individual story and how the conservatory grew into the arts education mecca it is today.  Read on to see our discussion…

(D: Daniel, S: Sandy)

D: Sandy, when did you begin working at Boys Harbor, as it was then called, and what were you originally hired to do?

S: I began working in the summer of 1970, and I was hired to teach piano.  That was the start of things.  And then because I had been trained in several other areas, as things progressed, we expanded.  I had started a class… kind of a little kids’ music appreciation thing with all kinds of different symbols and ways of teaching music and notes and things like that, which was fun.  Then we started the chorus, and that grew to about 60 voices at one point.  We played at the Apollo, then we did a gig at Carnegie Hall.  We were backed up by the Harbor’s own Jazz band, which was great.  That was the era of Vista Volunteers.  Jutta von Tiesenhausen came as a Vista Volunteer and, because she was musically trained, she began working with the chorus.  I had hired Ramon away from Third Street Music School by then; he and Jutta took over the chorus, Ramon started teaching band, while I continued teaching piano.  So that was sort of how it grew, as we got more kids wanting to do more things, we gradually started getting some money to hire other people to do things.

D: What’s a Vista Volunteer?

S: That was the internal counterpart of the Peace Corps.  If you wanted to do work of that sort, you joined the vista volunteers. It was a two-year stint where you worked in the United States in communities such as East Harlem.

D: When you originally began teaching piano and dance, were these classes just a part of Boys Harbor?

S: Yes… and then it grew.

D:  As more programs developed over time, when did you consciously begin focusing your efforts towards building a comprehensive performing arts program separate from Boys Harbor?

S: You know, I don’t think, at least for the first five or ten years, there was really a conscious thought of saying “Let’s make this a separate conservatory”.  We were too busy just doing what we were doing.  Plus, we were always integral to the rest of the place.  Several of us were on the daycare budget.  You found ways of paying people because we were serving day care kids and were legitimately part of the Boys Harbor Program.  I think probably after I left and became part of the development department was when they first started.  That was when Ramon, Nina Klyvert,  Nina Olson, Rob Blumenthal and Bertin Rowser really started thinking of it as being the Conservatory.  The leaping man logo, that was Bertin’s, that was the first real logo for the Conservatory, as it was named.  It wasn’t like “ok we’re putting out our shingle today”; it was very generic and just basically happened.  But we realized and they realized that the training our students were getting was really… superb.  So, since we really were a conservatory, let’s think of ourselves that way.  It’s a little bit like behaviorist thinking; if you do it, it becomes so.

D:  When you first started here, what were the original classes offered?

S:  Well, when I was by myself it was just piano lessons and the music appreciation course for kids.  Oh, and the chorus.  We used to do chorus on Saturday morning.  Then Vince Henry, you might have heard of him, he’s pretty well-known in the jazz circles; he and his best friend “Bumpy” and John Adams (not the composer), started a group and that became the Harbor Band, or the Harbor Ensemble.  Vince was and is a reed player, plays all the reeds.  Actually he taught himself just about everything else, including sitar I would imagine by this point.  Bumpy was on drums and John was on piano.  So they started doing arrangements for the music we were already doing with piano, and it was fun!  Then Ramon came and we expanded; we’d even have the band tour with the children.  We’d get the van and go to different places, and then we’d take the kids home at night, walk them up the stairs.  Then there was camp… it was more or less 24/7, 365 in those days.  In the summer you finished teaching on Friday, went out to camp and taught, came back Sunday night at midnight and started over again.  But it was a very idealistic time, it was the ‘70’s.  Everybody was out in the community and it was wonderful.  There was always something more to do, to be done, to build.  It was fabulous.

D: That’s fantastic.  What was your background before you came to the Harbor?

S: Well I graduated from Julliard, I was a piano major and a voice minor.  I had been on stage as a dancer since I was four.  I got to use just about everything I had ever been trained in here, which was fun.  That was the beginning of the dance company. It wasn’t GESTURES then, but I had a dance company.  We had some outside choreographers come in, Diane Macintyre for instance.  It isn’t like GESTURES today, what Nina has done is unbelievable, but they were pretty good!  Some of them actually performed with Pearl Primus when she reset “The Wedding” at City Center.  They danced on stage with the Ailey II Company and held their own.  They were really good.  Now at that time, I had already started the Harbor Junior High School on 109th Street, the Harbor School for the Performing Arts, so those students also performed.  There was always something going on over here!  That was the time when Tony Alvarado was superintendent of District 4, and he was very supportive of small schools.  His wife started the first one, also a performing arts school, but hers used an arts and education model; she merged the arts with everything they did.  Ours was more of a conservatory style, you did your academics, and then you did your arts.  So ours was the second mini school in the district actually, started in 1973 or 1974.  And it lasted until maybe four or five years ago.

D: Changing gears a bit, I wanted to ask you about Ramon.  Ramon Rodriguez has been the Executive Director here for over 25 years.  I doubt this place would still exist if you had never hired him.  How did you meet him, what was your initial impression of him, and why did you decide to hire him?

S: I’m trying to think of how I met him.  I don’t remember!  I remember hearing a lot about him, but I honestly don’t remember how I met him.  Well, this is what happens when you’re over sixty.  Anyway, I had heard that he was a really good teacher, that he taught several different instruments, bass, percussion, piano; that he was into Latin music.  I needed somebody who could do things that I couldn’t do and share the load.  We were getting a lot of kids who were into different things.  I remember working at it for a while.  He didn’t want to leave his previous school, but he finally did, and… that was that.  It just built from there.  He took on his share of things and more, and we started hiring other people, reed people, brass people, percussion people.  Louis Bauzo came at some point… it just… you know… grew!  All the time we were trying to raise money.  That’s how I started, as a fundraiser actually.

D: When the Conservatory was first getting started, could you fathom that it would one day grow to house over 800 students and a large, diverse, international faculty?

S: Well we never thought about it.  Of course I never imagined it, along with the size and importance Raices would play.  As I said, it wasn’t like we had a five-year plan, we never did that, probably should have, but it worked out very well.  But of course it’s an amazing thing to look at now, and when I go to performances it’s… amazing.

D: That must feel incredible.

S: Oh, it feels fabulous.  To know that this wasn’t here before.  The Junior High School is the same way.  You know, these teachers wouldn’t be here, these kids wouldn’t be as happy as they are now. To see something that you started is worth… everything.

D: What was the thinking behind extending the music program to adults?

S: That was probably more Ramon’s thinking than mine.  It also might have been that we thought we could charge, and raise money.  We weren’t charging children at first, they were part of the Harbor Program.  And even when we did bring kids in from outside the Harbor, we charged them a very nominal amount.  It just seemed like the logical next step.  I think it was in large part an aspect of the people we were hiring.  They drew adults.  Louis never in my memory taught kids, except one little one that was so unbelievable you just couldn’t bear it.  His expertise and his fame was through adults.  I think the guitar people, the reed people; those teachers taught adults predominantly and they brought their clientele with them.  That’s my best recollection, but by this time Ramon handled more of the music program, and I had focused on furthering the dance program.

D: Last question: What do you think it is that makes the Conservatory so unique and special?

S: I think it’s a place where people can really find and do what they want to do without hassles, without someone looking over their shoulder, without the unnecessary paper work.  A couple of teachers used to say to me “You know, I have to work elsewhere to support my habit here”.  Because they loved being here despite the fact we couldn’t pay the salary that they deserved, but stayed on because it was such a special place.  The teachers were surrounded by great colleagues, they were able to teach the way they wanted to teach, able to put their students into ensembles.  Rob Blumenthal created the jazz ensemble, Louis started the folkloric ensemble, Ramon had a couple of Latin ensembles…  you just had everything here.  It’s just a group of exceptional people who are still very idealistic, and were never beaten down by academia or bureaucracy.  People believe in this place, and they believe in what they can do for kids, they believe in what they can do for the community.  That’s how we started, that’s what kept us going, and that’s what we – they – still do today.  When you have people like Ramon, Louis, Nina and Bertin… it’s infectious.  The people are so talented and have so many ideas and are doing so much for the kids at such a professional level that it just makes it a… very very special place.  For a while we had a music camp for the summer and… that was fun.  We just sort of went in all kinds of directions… whenever we came up with a new idea that could get funded and benefit children, we’d do it.  It’s just a very special place, it just is.  It doesn’t equate with any other place I can think of.  It’s still very collegial, very low-key in terms of hierarchy, bureaucracy, all those types of things.  It’s a very special place.  The people who are here feel that way and that’s what keeps it going.

Late October Events!

Hello Friends,

The semester is in full swing here at the conservatory!  Beyond the daily excitement of students perfecting their performing art, there are several upcoming events that are sure to pique your interest.

G Pic 1Harbor Conservatory has been invited to participate in a very special event, the Cross Cultural Youth Festival scheduled for October 27, 2009 from 10 am to 12pm at the 168th Street Armory. The event will be headlined by the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, a 130 piece children’s orchestra from the North and South of Ireland. CBOI is returning to NY (4 years ago they sold out Carnegie Hall) to perform at Lincoln Center.

The Conservatory’s GESTURES Dance Ensemble and Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble will be joining the following outstanding NYC arts organizations: Harlem School of the Arts, Dance Theater of Harlem, Pierre Dulaine’s Mad Hot Ballroom, The Keltic Dreams, and The Wendy Hilliard Foundation.

Group with Singer

On Thursday, October 29th Conservatory Director Ramon Rodriguez and Conservatory Artistic Director Nina Klyvert-Lawson will be featured on WHCR 90.3 FM Harlem Radio as a part of “Black Beat New York“, hosted by Flo Whiley at 6:15 PM. This popular arts and entertainment talk show airs on Thursdays from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm. WHCR is a community station providing informative, educational and cultural programming that speaks to the diverse populations of Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and some sections of the Bronx, Queens and New Jersey.

Ramon PicNina headshot

Fall Registration Newsletter!

Hello friends,

It is now September and the fall/winter semester at the Harbor Conservatory is almost upon us.  Registration and auditions for classes begin very shortly!  General registration begins September 8th and runs through October 31st.

Registration 2009

Without further ado, here is a rundown of everything coming up this fall at the Conservatory!

Dance Program Auditions


Auditions are being held for our LEAP Dance Program Friday, September 18th at 4:00 PM.  LEAP is designed for dance students ages 11 to 13, who are focused on applying to specialized high school dance programs. Applying students must have at least three years previous dance training. The LEAP Dance Program is a partial scholarship opportunity with a curriculum that includes: 4 hours of weekly dance training in Ballet and Modern, 1 hour of weekly training in Jazz or African Dance, audition preparation through practice auditions, quarterly progress evaluations from instructors, and counseling sessions designed to help students concentrate on specific areas of their individual technical development. LEAP classes are held on Fridays from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and on Saturday throughout the day.  To register for the audition, please call Naomi Shimashita at 212/427-2244 ext. 553 or Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570.


Auditions for GESTURES will take place Friday, October 2nd at 4:30 PM.
GESTURES, now celebrating its 20 anniversary, is the pre-professional resident dance company of Harbor Conservatory. The ensemble is a performance workshop for students, ages 13 to 19. Five years of technical training is required in order to audition. Acceptance into the Gestures Dance Ensemble gives a serious dance student the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a professional company. From challenging rehearsals to fully produced public performances. This is an intense, accelerated program. Only those with strong commitment and desire to pursue rigorous dance training need apply. Modeled after a professional company, ensemble members are required to attend: -weekly 3 hour rehearsals, participate in a full performance schedule and training includes: Ballet, Jazz, Pointe Variations, Choreography and working with noted professional choreographers. Gestures has performed at the Papal Youth Rally, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Central Park SummerStage, Dances at Wave Hill, Aaron Davis Hall, HOSTOS Center for Arts and Culture and The Ailey Citigroup Theater.  To arrange to audition please call Naomi Shimashita at extension 553 or Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570.

G Pic 1

Theater Arts Auditions

Auditions for this fall’s Theater Arts Program at the Harbor Conservatory are Saturday, September 26th. Auditions for the Musical Theater Production are from 10AM-1PM, while auditions for the Theater Repertory Company are from 3-7PM. Please contact Program Coordinator Michael Awusie for more information at 212-427-2244 ext. 558.

theater arts description 2009

Apart from registration, there is some exciting unrelated news at the Conservatory.  Harbor Conservatory is pleased to announce that its Jazz Program is now under the direction of pianist and composer, Gustavo Casenave. Mr. Casenave joined the Conservatory’s faculty in 1997 teaching composition and Latin Jazz piano. Over the course of 20 years as an educator, he has lectured and conducted Master Classes and workshops at such prestigious institutions as The Juilliard School, New York University, Yale University, Berklee School of Music, University of Florida, University of Uruguay, Waldorf Schule in Austria, and Klagenfurt Music Conservatory also in Austria.

Gustavo Casenave Pic

Finally, Classical Music Director Martin Soderberg has been invited by the Tian Jin University in China to perform recitals of Spanish Music and conduct a series of lectures on Spanish Piano Music from October 10th to 17th.  This will be Martin’s first trip to China.  Best of luck to him on his adventures!

music 21

Check back tomorrow for a new “Did You Know” and Friday for an interview with new jazz program Director Gustavo Casenave.

Until then,

Daniel Schwartz                                                                                   Special Projects Coordinator

Summer Newsletter

This summer at the Harbor has already been action packed, and it’s not even half over yet!  To kick the summer off, more than 175 people gathered on June 15th at the Ailey Citigroup Theater at the Joan Weill Center for Dance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Harbor Conservatory’s GESTURES Dance Ensemble, established by Artistic Director Nina Klyvert-Lawson. Both GESTURES and Klyvert-Lawson received official letters from New York’s Governor David Paterson, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, congratulating Klyvert-Lawson and the company on 20 years of enriching New York’s cultural life. This was followed by the ensemble receiving “glowing” reviews by both Dance Teacher Magazine Associate Editor Tracy Krisanits and METRO US noted Dance journalist, Elizabeth Zimmer.

This summer the Harbor has provided several camps for aspiring musicians and actors. Our classical music summer camp, run by classical music director Martin Soderberg, was held from July 6th to the 17th.  Daily classes were held in Piano, Violin, Voice, Duets, Music Appreciation, Rhythm and Theory.  There was also a special visit from Ubaldo Diaz Acosta (Professor at the Manhattan School of Music and Director of the Juliet Music Center), who offered a master class to camp students.  Students who performed for Mr. Diaz Acosta included Mia Stevens, Aida Ortega, Jeremiah Castro, Quitze Eguigure, Concepcion Arellano and Antonio Lee.  A final concert took place on Friday, July 17th, 2009.

Our most recent camp was the Musical Theater Summer Intensive, which ran from July 13-24.  The camp was a crash course for students new to Musical Theater, and concluded with a performance by the students on July 24.  This year the instructors were Darrell Moultrie (Director/Voice), Natrea Blake (Hip Hop/Dance), Amy Hall (Tap/Dance), and Michael Awusie (Acting/Stage Manager).  Each day consisted of a rigorous regimen of acting instruction, voice instruction, dance instruction, and rehearsal for the end of camp performance.

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