Columbia University’s Program to Introduce Young Women of Color to the Music Industry

The department of music at Columbia University in New York City has launched a multi-year program, “For the Daughters of Harlem: Working in Sound.” The program brings young women of color from public high schools in Manhattan and the Bronx to Columbia for workshops on recording and producing their own music.

The program was first established in 2017 when the university received a grant supporting the project from the Columbia chapter of the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research, an Obama White House effort to study and address the education, health, and social service disparities faced by girls and women of color. Daughters of Harlem was founded by Dr. Ellie Hisama, a professor of music at Columbia, who currently co-directs the project with Dr. Luci Vágnerová, a core lecturer in music humanities.

For two consecutive Sundays, the Daughters of Harlem participants gather on Columbia’s campus to work with professors, graduate students, and guest instructors. They learn about the uses and values of music in everyday life and work in small groups in recording studios, and collaborate with professional musicians. At the end of their program, the girls showcased their work in a public performance attend by family, friends, community members, and faculty from Columbia and Barnard College.

“It enriches our industry to have diversity, to have women in every facet of the business, not just in production and engineering, but also in marketing, business development and legal issues,” said Ebonie Smith, an award-winning music producer, engineer and singer-songwriter, who led a workshop in October. “The industry that I’m in needs to reflect the world that I live in.”


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