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Thoughts by Annabelle Prager, Founder of ISO, from her speech given at the dinner in her honor at Le Parker Meridien, May 11, 2017

Exhilaration, admiration, excitement, pride, unadulterated bliss—these are just a few of the emotions I have experienced every day for the last 45 years since I founded ISO.    

Wonderful people—professional musicians, conductors, teachers, composers, board members and especially parents—kept turning up to help me with my mission of bringing quality music education back into children’s lives.  Without their expertise and devotion, this extraordinary organization wouldn’t be where it is today.

Every minute along the way has been fascinating—every rehearsal, all the free school performances and musical services, as well as spectacular events at prestigious venues, even as far away as Venezuela. 

I have heard the most glorious music, often performed on a professional level, always with enthusiasm and dedication by children of all backgrounds, ages and skills.

I never cease to delight as the squeaks and honks of the beginner groups are transformed into an amazingly well-played piece of music. 

I’m as proud as a stage mother when a child gives an exceptional solo performance or wins an award or gets into the music school or college of their choice. 

The sun shines more brightly when I land a record breaking contribution from a generous friend or from a prestigious foundation.  Every penny we raise goes towards more visionary programs for the children.  

I pat myself on the back when one of the ideas that never stop springing from my busy brain can be worked into an unusual and innovative program.  I’m good at filling unmet musical needs.

This was demonstrated in 2016 when I came up with the idea for Opera 360.  By collaborating with a gentleman I had worked with in the past who runs the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the children studied opera.  What a fabulous experience they had as they became opera lovers and, believe me, opera desperately needs new fans.

It was fun to be in touch with the consuls of great countries like France, England and Germany, enlisting their interest and support so we could put on youth festivals of the incomparable music from those countries.  It created a lot of friends for us including illustrious ambassadors, the head of the U.N., Maestro Kurt Masur and a host of foreign corporate sponsors who donated free gifts and services.

Always a sucker for a compliment, I don’t hide my pleasure when an ISO alum raves about ISO and tells me that it has changed the course of his or her life.

ISO has certainly changed the course of mine.