The Heartbeat Project Finds Its Rhythm at Third Annual NTU Summer Camp

The Heartbeat Project co-founder Ariel Horowitz goes over a lesson with a student at the third annual music and math camp. The intent of the camp is to provide music education as a gateway to enhance math skills.

Published June 6, 2018

CROWNPOINT, N.M. — For the past week Navajo Technical University has served as a musical haven for aspiring musicians as eight teaching artists from The Julliard School, Yale University, the University of Miami, and the University of Michigan conducted a music and math camp for regional K-12 students. This is the third year in a row the two-week Heartbeat Project camp has been hosted at NTU and it has grown exponentially each year.

The Heartbeat Project started in 2016 with the aim to provide music education as a gateway to enhance math skills. In its first year, the camp welcomed two Julliard teaching artists and five students before growing to six teaching artists and 21 students last year. This year over 50 students signed up for the camp taught by eight teaching artists, which to program director Ariel Horowitz, has been both exciting and rewarding.

“It feels for the first time that we have a full blown camp,” explained Horowitz, who co-founded the camp with classmate and past teaching artist Leerone Hakami under the guidance and vision of NTU’s Dr. Wesley Thomas. “It’s gratifying to see so many kids and families want to learn music. We love it here. These kids are so talented and smart and thoughtful, and funny and really well behaved. They’re eager to learn.”

A typical day at camp begins at 10 AM with breakfast and morning stretches. The students are then split into groups based on grade level where two teaching artists team up to teach general music classes. The group is then split again between K-4th grade students and 5th-high school students. The younger kids learn math while the older kids dive into small group instrument lessons involving a violin, piano, or guitar. After lunch, the two groups then switch before everyone convenes at the end of the day for a group presentation. The group presentation is led by one of the teaching artists, but has included perspective from regional artists like jazz trumpet player Delbert Anderson of Farmington, NM.

The eight 2018 teaching artists include Director Ariel Horowitz, as well as Jameel Martin, Sabastian Zinca, Yaegy Park, Manami Mizumoto, Zola Hightower, Brian Bibb, and Gregory Lewis. Their lessons are paired with instruction from Dr. Henry Fowler, who provides lessons on math apprising Navajo culture and perspective. To Horowitz, the pairing of music and math seemed like a natural fit for the camp, which emphasizes each discipline’s fundamentals.

“We wanted it to be a collaborative experience,” stated Horowitz, who currently attends Yale University. “Music and math go well together. They use the same part of the brain and help the kids engage intellectually from multiple avenues, which will hopefully help them to become better learners.”

Overall, Horowitz has found a calling with the camp, and is pleased to see its growth over the years. “I didn’t know it would become the most important thing I do,” Horowitz stated. “I invested in the kids, and I love being able to come back and see how they’ve grown. They really are engaged, which is so gratifying as an educator and musician.”

Teaching artist Brian Bibb of the University of Miami works with students on the piano keyboard during an afternoon session of The Heartbeat Project.

The Heartbeat Project’s teaching artists will showcase their musical talents this week by performing two sets for the local community. They will be providing a performance to the Crownpoint Senior Center in a closed session, but they will also host a free show for the general public on June 7th at 6 PM in NTU’s Wellness Center.

The Julliard School, National Public Radio From the Top Alumni Leadership Grant, and Navajo Technical University fund the Heartbeat Project. Robertson and Sons, a family-owned music store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also donated instruments to the camp.

To learn more about the Heartbeat Project contact Ariel Horowitz at or Dr. Wesley Thomas at

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