Our History

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Philadelphia High School for Girls (Girls’ High) produced three Principal Harpists of major orchestras: Ann Hobson Pilot who was first Black musician in any major American orchestra, Paula Page of the Houston Symphony, and Susan Dederich-Pejovich of the Dallas Symphony. Inspired by this once prolific program, Elizabeth Hainen, who was the newly appointed Principal Harpist of The Philadelphia Orchestra, founded the Lyra Society in 2004. She brokered a deal with Lyon & Healy Harps to trade in dusty harps found in a Girls’ High closet for usable harps for students.

The Lyra Society is a women- run 501(c)3 non-profit. Lyra’s mission is to promote cultural equity through access to harp education through its core program, Glissando. Lyra provides harps, harp lessons, and harp presentations in schools at no cost to Philadelphia and Bronx School District students who have minimal access to music education. For Philadelphia students. Lyra provides college and financial aid guidance. Thanks to Lyra’s efforts, 100% of our graduates – many of whom are first generation, low-income students – continue their education in colleges, universities, or conservatories.

Lyra is now the leading model for harp programs in the country and the sole harp lesson provider for the Philadelphia School District. Because Lyra supports students through their developmental years and keeps in close contact with them as alums, our students have unmatched opportunities to connect with mentors and friends, develop confidence to define and reach their goals, and find their distinctive voices.

Glissando! Program’s Growth

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Glissando Program Growth Chart