Margaret Martin, DrPH, MPH
Harmony Project Founder
Margaret Martin overcame early challenges, including teen pregnancy and parenting, domestic violence and homelessness with her two children, to enroll at LA City College as a freshman at the age of thirty-three. She went on to earn a doctorate in Public Health from UCLA in ‘Community Health Science’, and a master of public health degree, also from UCLA, in Behavior Science/ Health Education, and Population and Family Health.
She founded Harmony Project in 2001, which has provided instruments and tuition-free group and private music lessons to thousands of the most vulnerable children in Los Angeles as a means of positive youth development and social inclusion. Harmony Project currently maintains numerous full-time youth orchestras, and works to develop youth music ensembles throughout LA’s low-income gang reduction zone neighborhoods.
On November 4th, 2009, Dr. Martin accepted the Coming Up Taller Award from First Lady Michele Obama at the White House on behalf of Harmony Project. Administered by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, Coming Up Taller (now called the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award) is the nation’s highest honor for an arts-based youth program. On October 20th, 2011, Dr. Martin received the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama for founding Harmony Project. The Presidential Citizens Medal is the second highest civilian honor the U.S. government bestows. Today Dr. Martin is a member of the board of the LA City College Foundation.
Dr. Martin is currently working with researchers from Northwestern University to document the neurological, academic and behavioral impact of sustained music learning on disadvantaged youth, using a longitudinal randomized and controlled research design. Preliminary findings suggest that early music training may remodel children’s developing brains and significantly improve cognitive function in disadvantaged children, especially for language processing and reading. The collaboration developed by Dr. Martin between Northwestern University and Harmony Project is providing a promising new perspective on the potential for early school-based music training to close the stubbornly persistent achievement gap between children from poor families and their more affluent peers.
Dr. Martin has worked in low-income communities as an educator for more than 30 years. She is a passionate proponent of arts education and its capacity to transform the lives of children with few resources, along with the families and communities in which they live. Under her leadership, independent Harmony Project programs have launched throughout the United States, and additional Harmony Project programs are currently developing in low-income communities throughout the country.
Dr. Martin has been honored with numerous local and national awards, and her work with Harmony Project has been featured in national media, including the NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, OWN, PBS ‘Turning Point’, PBS Weekend NewsHour, US Department of Education ‘Homeroom’, Federal Task Force Webinar (US Department of Education with National Endowment for the Arts), National Endowment for the Arts weblog and The Atlantic (Oct 9, 2013), among others.
Dr. Martin is also a published author and illustrator and a produced playwright, composer and lyricist.