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Promise Academy Orchestra Teacher Sounds Notes of Inspiration

Soah Narm, Promise Academy Orchestra Teacher

Woman smiling and playing violin

Growing up, Soah Narm didn’t stay in one place for too long. Her parents were often in search of work, sometimes traveling across oceans for it. So her surroundings, her friends, and her school were always in flux.

One of the few constants in her life was the violin.

Soah first picked up the instrument as a child. Even though money was tight, nothing could stop her from learning to play. In each new town, she would find creative ways to continue her lessons.

For someone who was always on the move, making music was a way of finding her footing.

“It was really fun, and I could create my own thing,” she says. “I really found myself in the violin.”

 

Making Music Fun

Today, Soah is teaching her middle and high school students to do the same as an orchestra teacher at Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy Schools. Soah is one of the hundreds of Promise teachers who are doing whatever it takes to help our scholars thrive.

For Soah, that goes beyond a traditional approach to teaching. On any given day, you might hear her class playing a pop song a student suggested, or a lively show-and-tell of Spotify playlists. You might even hear Soah playing cello while her student conducts — a way to build confidence and leadership skills.

“Learning to play music is beautiful and fun,” Soah says. “So I want to teach it in a beautiful and fun way.”

Making Music Fun

Today, Soah is teaching her middle and high school students to do the same as an orchestra teacher at Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy Schools. Soah is one of the hundreds of Promise teachers who are doing whatever it takes to help our scholars thrive.

For Soah, that goes beyond a traditional approach to teaching. On any given day, you might hear her class playing a pop song a student suggested, or a lively show-and-tell of Spotify playlists. You might even hear Soah playing cello while her student conducts — a way to build confidence and leadership skills.

“Learning to play music is beautiful and fun,” Soah says. “So I want to teach it in a beautiful and fun way.”

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Trust the Process

Learning an instrument is fun, but it’s far from easy: it takes hard work, discipline, and constant practice. It also involves a lot of mistakes. Soah reminds her students that missed and late notes are all part of the process.

“Don’t let your mistakes get you down,” Soah says. “Learn from them.”

For proof of where perseverance can get you, follow Soah’s career. In high school, she won a scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the University of California Santa Barbara and a master’s in music education from Columbia University. In 2015, she became an orchestra teacher at Promise Academy.

 

“Get Better Every Day”

Three years before taking her gig at Promise, Soah returned to Mussoorie, India — one of the many places where she lived growing up — to volunteer at her former school. During her first week there, she saw children carry water in buckets to earn money for their families. Her heart ached for them, but it also soared. As they worked, the children sang. The experience reminded Soah of why she started playing music in the first place.

“Music brings you joy, it grounds you,” she says. 

If there’s one thing Soah Narm hopes her students take away, is to keep learning and never stop being themselves.

Says the orchestra teacher, “I hope they will always seek to grow and remember they can get better every day.”

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