What motivated you to found Harmony Helper? What are your hopes for what this platform can bring to the choral community?
Andrew Goren: My motivation for creating Harmony Helper is tied to my background in musical theatre and choral singing. When I was younger, before my voice changed, I sang melody and soprano vocal parts. However, as my voice changed, I started having to sing more complex harmonies. Typically, I was fine when the teacher was plunking out my part on the piano, but when I had to join another singer in harmony without the teacher’s accompaniment, things fell apart for me. It was embarrassing, frustrating, and I really struggled with it. That’s what sparked the idea for me, at 13-years-old, to create Harmony Helper. I wanted to create a digital rehearsal room—something where anyone can take a piece of music and learn it anytime and anywhere. We spent a lot of time workshopping the app, building the best tool possible, and we officially launched Harmony Helper about a year ago.
As for my hopes for what this platform can bring to the choral community, they are twofold. Our ultimate goal is to increase access to and share the joy of music. One way to do this is by bringing a tool to people so that they have easy access to music, regardless of their time constraints, location, or financial situation. Now people can easily and confidently learn music on their own time, for individual projects or so that they can walk into their next rehearsal ready and prepared. In particular, during the pandemic we hope to be able to help safely connect choirs and keep them singing. The second way we are helping the choral community is by freeing up time for music directors and music teachers who spend so many hours creating vocal tracks and helping students outside of the classroom.
How have you shifted your operations and offerings in response to the uncertainty and increased demand for distance learning?
AG: We have had to pivot and shift our business model, as most businesses have had to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harmony Helper has always been an app that’s catered to the musical theatre community as well as the choral community. In part, due to my background in musical theatre, we started to gain a lot of traction with that demographic, especially in the professional world. When the pandemic hit, live theatre was put on pause. There weren’t shows to rehearse for and there weren’t auditions to practice for. That’s when we shifted gears and focused on the communities that were still trying to find a way to work together and make music safely.
In the choral community especially, there is something more than just singing. There’s also a sense of being part of a community. We found that choral groups, virtual summer camps, and educational programs were continuing to push on. We made an effort to cater more to choruses to keep them singing during this time. We also have been working with choruses and educators to provide bulk discount pricing, as well as free access to Harmony Helper. This will help keep people connected and pushing forward in these times of struggle and uncertainty.
You have an exciting new update that Harmony Helper just rolled out—tell us about it!
AG: We recently launched our “Harmony Helper for Groups” portal. This is something that we have been working on for a while, but we fast-tracked it to assist groups and choirs that wanted to continue singing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Harmony Helper for Groups” connects the music director with the student. It’s no longer just an individual-user app. It’s something that everyone in the choir can use. The music director can log onto our easy-to-use “Harmony Helper for Groups” portal, upload their music, create songbooks, and disperse that to their groups. Group members can learn their music individually on their own, then come to Zoom rehearsals and use Harmony Helper as the backing track. They can also use Harmony Helper to learn their music ahead of time so that they can spend valuable Zoom rehearsal time working on the finishing touches that make a piece of music special. We’re excited to be working on the platform with multiple choruses as well as school choirs. If anyone would like to learn more about it, they can reach out to us at [email protected].
What have you learned from the past several months, and how do you plan to incorporate that into your plans for the future?
AG: The instability of life during a pandemic is something that we’ve all had to learn to adapt to. We’ve been working closely with our Harmony Helper subscribers, along with music teachers and groups that are using our app. One of the most important things that we’ve learned is that people want to stay connected. Our ongoing focus is to make it easier and more efficient for groups to access our platform—allowing people to quickly and effectively learn music helps further their connection to each other. We are a service-driven company. We work directly with our users to help them navigate any barriers that limit or restrict access to Harmony Helper. While doing so, we will continue to build more tools that will benefit our end-users and singers. We are committed to being a partner to our users throughout their musical journey.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and leaders who are trying to foster a sense of community in a time of physical distance?
AG: My first piece of advice would be to protect yourself and others during this time. Use technology to your advantage. We’re fortunate enough to have the internet and access to new technology every day. I can hop on a Zoom call to meet with current or potential members of Harmony Helper, get their feedback, and stay connected to them. Use social media during this time to engage with and learn about your community’s needs. Keep pushing forward. If you need to pivot your business model or the way you think, go ahead and do that. Every good business has had to do this. Stay true to your mission and goal, but always be aware of the needs of the communities who you serve. Incorporate those needs into your end-product. Make sure that you do good for those whom you serve. By doing this, you’ll be successful in nurturing and engaging with your community, because that should always be our end goal.
To learn more about the Harmony Helper for Groups portal, visit the Harmony Helper website.
Harmony Helper is a sponsor of Chorus America's 2020 Online Chorus Management Institute, and we gratefully acknowledge their generous support. Thank you for supporting the partners that make Chorus America’s work possible. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a sponsor or creating a sponsored article with us, please contact [email protected].