Handel and Haydn Society Girls Choir
The Handel and Haydn Society in Boston was founded as a choral society in 1815 and is among the oldest continuously performing arts organizations in the country.

Its Educational Outreach Program, though was founded only 24 years ago, but its focus is on bringing music to possibly the most significant element of society: to children.

The Society's Educational Outreach Program provides over 10,000 public school students throughout the greater Boston area with opportunities to hear and perform classical music. In 1994, the Society established the Vocal Apprenticeship Program to help students with special talent whose families lack the funds to pursue private instruction. The Vocal Apprenticeship Program is considered one of the Society's most important educational initiatives, as it serves

Handel and Haydn Society Choir Conductor
the needs of talented children who might be able to pursue a career in music. The program provides intensive study in voice, theory, and piano, along with mentoring and guidance.

When the Society received a $50,000 stimulus grant last year, Marie-Helene Bernard, executive director and chief executive officer of the Handel and Haydn Society, knew exactly where to put the funds: into the Vocal Apprenticeship Program.

"We would not have been able to sustain the program in its entirety [without the stimulus funds]," says Bernard.

That, she says, would have had a negative impact on the students. "Music education enhances students' skills," she says. "It helps them gain confidence especially at an age when there are changes that are not easy to manage. It gives a sense of accomplishment and helps the students be more focused at school."

Parents pay some tuition for the program but tuition does not cover the cost of each student and about half the students are either on full or partial scholarship. According to Bernard, because of the recession, foundations cut back on their funding by as much as 50 percent and individual donors also weren't giving as much as they did. "It was a huge relief that the funding was available," she says.

The Society was able to fund the three conductors who lead the four choirs for

Handel and Haydn Society Choir
students between the ages of six and 16 in the program. "They are the heart and the soul of the program," she says.

Bernard says that nearly all the students in the program remain involved in music in some way, even after they leave. "We want a society that can sing and dance and draw," she says. "I think stimulus was a great initiative from the government to support the arts. It is the first sector to be hit in a recession and the last to recover. This sends a strong message to society that arts and culture are important."