Project Rhythm is a New York City-based 501c3 nonprofit organization that uses music as an educational tool to improve the social and emotional, cognitive, school performance and job readiness of youth who are poor in means, but rich in potential. Project Rhythm is committed to using music as a way to educate and prepare youth to become beneficial contributors in society. Project Rhythm’s suite of programming leverages music education to not only improve the participants’ social and emotional learning (e.g. confidence, tolerance), but also build their cognitive abilities (executive functioning, English and math), and enable them to develop critical job readiness skills (e.g. digital media literacy, time management). Project Rhythm seeks to incubate these programs with community based host organizations and then leverage the subsequent tools and data to help music education pedagogy at large. In addition to dynamic classroom education, Project Rhythm’s programs are complemented by scholarships and internships that allow the students to build trade-based job skills and benefit from the mentorship of working professionals and real-world professional environments. These program offerings allow for a sustained, deep engagement with the students. The organization prides itself on relentlessly seeking ways to improve and has developed a host of evaluation and feedback mechanisms to study outcomes and the input from participants.
In 2008, Project Rhythm Founder and Executive Director, Jāmin Gilbert (also Founder of music companies Ishlab and Ishlab Studio) was asked to develop a music class by an organization called Camp AmeriKids. Jāmin happily accepted the opportunity, and upon observing the powerful effect of music on youth through the progression of the classes, he realized the need for music education was larger than he could tackle independently. Jāmin’s experience marked the organic inception of Project Rhythm. Since then, more than six hundred young people have participated in Project Rhythm’s programs through school and community-based nonprofit host organizations. Going forward, with Project Rhythm’s suite of programs and scalable models, it is projected that Project Rhythm will serve over one thousand young people in 2012 with plans to increase in the following years.
To date, Project Rhythm has relied on volunteers and the generosity of its host organizations to execute its flagship Mobile Studio program, develop new programming, brand and market, fundraise, create curricula, develop its theory of change, generate outcome evaluations, and expand its reach. Since its inception, Project Rhythm has experienced overwhelming demand for its high-impact, cost efficient programming.
Project Rhythm seeks not only to fill the growing void in music education among underserved youth, but also to effectively use a combination of programs to achieve high impact. By building a broader initiative with multiple programs, Project Rhythm seeks to reach youth at different stages of their growth and develop various channels through which to maintain engagement with participants over time. Not only does this approach motivate students (e.g., they can progress from one program to another), but also enables more sustainable program impact. This progression will ultimately help to develop valuable life and job skills under the tutelage of working professionals.
Project Rhythm is also committed to leveraging the power of music as an educational tool and thus supports educational policy and programming efficacy.