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Annabelle F. Prager, Founder Trustee Emeritus

Annabelle Prager has had a lasting impact on music education for children that will be felt far into the future. As founder of the InterSchool Orchestras of New York (ISO), she has been a master at filling unmet musical needs, devising and enriching programs and offering essential services that the schools and the community have not been able to provide for themselves. The lives of close to three generations of students have been transformed by their love of music whether they become distinguished professional artists or devoted amateurs.

In 1972, Mrs. Prager was one of the first to address the crisis facing music education for children when she discovered that budget cuts and other priorities had virtually chased music out of the education system. There were few places left where a child could play a musical instrument in an ensemble, much less receive any sort of education in music. Galvanized into action, she created ISO and its first orchestra, a small,
32-piece ensemble for children of all ages, economic and cultural backgrounds. The program, with its multiple orchestras and chamber groups, and its ability to reach out, engage and develop talent, had been operating successfully long before the mid 80’s when the tide of public opinion belatedly caught up with
Mrs. Prager’s pioneering mission. The New York Times finally sent out an alarm warning about the dismantling of arts programs in the schools. The Times also praised ISO for its unique hands on opportunities which creates unparalleled devotion to music among children.

In the forty-five years that have ensued since its creation, Mrs. Prager’s ISO has become one of New York City’s most important musical resources, offering spectacular, heretofore unheard of opportunities for thousands of children, audiences as well as players far and wide. It is a winner of the Bank of New York’s Award for Excellence in Orchestra Education.

No one has been a more persistent go-getter or been more inventive at raising funds and summoning up interest and support for ISO than Mrs. Prager. In praise of her adventurous spirit and never ending creative ideas, she has received awards from the Women’s City Club, the Municipal Art Society and induction into the Channel 13 Hall of Fame.

A graduate of Sweet Briar College, Mrs. Prager attended the Yale School of Fine Arts and married the late David Prager, Esq., a fellow aficionado of art and music who she met singing in a distinguished choral group. She is a talented artist, illustrator and an author of books for children. Among her notable publications have been the bestsellers The Surprise Party and The Spooky Halloween Party (published in several languages). Mrs. Prager has also written a series of highly admired booklets on the history of the music of Italy, France and Great Britain for the celebrated music festivals that she devised for ISO. Her illustrations have enhanced amusing concert programs for the ISO as well as decorative cards and beguiling posters to attract candidates for the orchestras.

Mrs. Prager laughingly likes to refer to herself as a “jock.” She was a champion figure skater, a ranked junior tennis player and was skiing blue trails until a chair lift accident put her out of commission in her late 80’s. Among the boards of philanthropic organizations she has graced are The Third Street Music Settlement, the Council of the New York Philharmonic, the Dalcroze School of Music, the Youth Division of the American Symphony League and American Friends of the Georgian Group.

On May 11, 2017, she was honored by her beloved ISO for her 45 years of “exemplary service, dedication and inspiring vision” at a gala dinner at LeParker Meridien. It was followed by a concert in her honor at Carnegie Hall which featured all the ensembles.

In June 12, 2017, at their annual meeting, the ISO Board of Trustees unanimously awarded her the title “Founder and Trustee Emeritus.”

At 95 years young, Mrs. Prager’s vision continues to be a vital part of ISO today, a vision that is irreplaceable.

Articles and Speeches by Annabelle Prager

Speech on May 11, 2017 at Le Parker Meridien

My Exhilarating 45-Year Adventure

My Exhilarating 35-Year Adventure