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HEAL Center receives $75,000 grant to pump up its music education efforts in St. Louis

Students participating in HEAL Center for the Arts programs learn the ins and outs of working in a professional band.
HEAL Center for the Arts
Students participating in HEAL Center for the Arts programs learn the ins and outs of working in a professional band.

The HEAL Center for the Arts plans to put a recent grant to use helping young people advance as musicians and learn the ins and outs of the music business.

The Lewis Prize for Music awarded a $75,000 grant to the nonprofit based in Grand Center.

“We’re going to take some time to strengthen the organization,” said Harvey Lockhart, a saxophonist and educator who founded the HEAL Center in 2015. “We’re going to strengthen our current programs by hiring more staff and teachers. And lastly, we’re going to expand our current programs into the community a bit more.”

The HEAL Center’s programs include individual and group music lessons, a reading and discussion group, music camps and multiple jazz ensembles that perform around the region.

Lockhart was Riverview Gardens High School’s band director and performing arts coordinator for secondary education at the school district from 2010 to 2019. His efforts earned him the St. Louis Arts Educator of the Year award in 2017 from the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis.

At HEAL, Lockhart works to reach young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“This is all to make quality arts programming accessible to all students, but especially to those of urban communities,” Lockhart said. “So a lot of my work has been geared toward making our music programs accessible to those students who need it the most, who don't have access to take private lessons.”

Some participating students perform in the organization’s Point of View Jazz Ensemble and the North County Big Band, a group formed in partnership with the Sheldon Music Hall and Art Galleries. They take charge of many logistics that come with a professional band, like working with venues to prepare for shows and drawing up contracts.

“We're not going to just teach you how to do your art. We will also make sure that you have the business savvy to sustain and support your art. It’s basically developing systems that teach them how to be more sustainable,” Lockhart said.

The emphasis on business was a boost for Asia Brantley when she began her studies this year as a freshman in Washington University’s Olin School of Business.

“It allows you to have those comfortable conversations about money, those comfortable conversations about how to get out of poverty,” she said. “Because a lot of the students in HEAL haven’t always had access to quality music programs.”

Brantley, who studied violin and trumpet in elementary school, was more focused on tennis than music as an incoming high school freshman when she attended her first one-week music camp at HEAL Center for the Arts.

That changed quickly.

“That camp totally changed the trajectory of my dreams and just what I wanted to do with my life,” Brantley said. As a high school performer, she discovered she has a talent for singing as well.

Brantley became student administrator for the group, a role in which she still serves. She doesn’t aspire to become a professional musician but plans to put the tools she learned with HEAL to work on broader goals like helping increase the amount of affordable housing in north St. Louis County.

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.