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meet the team
meet the team
ariel horowitz
Founder & Artistic Director
Hi everyone - Ya’ateh! My name is Ariel Horowitz, and I am the Founder and Artistic Director of the Heartbeat Music Project. Heartbeat found me back in 2016 when I was in my junior year at Juilliard. My mom, who works as a curriculum consultant for Navajo Technical University, called me to ask whether I’d be interested in volunteering music lessons to Navajo (Diné) children over the summer. I said yes, went out to Crownpoint with my dear old friend Leerone Hakami, and had an amazing time sharing music with a group of five third-graders. Somehow, I blinked: four years later, here we are with nearly sixty students ages five through eighteen!

I could not be more proud of what my team and I have created through the Heartbeat Music Project: it is the pride and joy of my life! In four short years, we’ve cultivated an empowering atmosphere that allows for our students to gain confidence in themselves through artistic expression, as well as through traditional Diné teachings and learnings. Our students teach us so much more than we could ever hope to teach them. Through this work, I have deepened my understanding of resilience, empathy, determination, and I have learned to celebrate the incredible magic of beginnings. I cannot wait to proudly watch our students in the coming years as they hone their musical talents and explore their local and global potential as leaders and world-changers. 

When I’m not running the Heartbeat Music Project, I am a violinist, performing regularly as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to perform a lot of my own music in world-renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, as well as local hospitals, schools, and retirement communities, and this has been such a rewarding experience. I was recently appointed as Professor of Violin at Mount Holyoke College, and I’m working hard to complete my Master of Musical Arts degree from the Yale School of Music. In my spare time, I am an extremely amateur ballet dancer, a voracious reader, a loyal friend/ daughter/ sister/ aunt, and a curator of horrible jokes (believe me, you’ll be laughing AT me, not with me)! 

My deepest held belief as an artist is that music is for everyone. It is one of the beautiful aspects of humanity that we all can share and participate in, regardless of race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, religion, or ability. While I acknowledge that the global issues facing us are far more severe than what a simple song can fix, there is innate power in music which cannot be described with words that makes life worth living. However, there are so many barriers of access to participation in music at a high artistic level. My goal is that through Heartbeat, through increased efforts to bring Western classical music into the 21st Century, and through so many other avenues yet to be explored, this belief can become a reality worldwide - maybe not in my lifetime, but in the lifetimes of my students and their students.
Sharon Nelson
Executive director
Hello! I am Sharon Nelson, and I serve as Executive Director for the Heartbeat Music Project. Prior to this position, I also served as a Recruiter and Assistant in 2016 and as Project Director from 2017-2018. In the current capacity as Executive Director, I oversee the program at the Navajo Technical University (NTU) campus in Crownpoint, New Mexico. This involves synchronizing NTU Departments so that Heartbeat functions effectively. Most importantly, I ensure NTU provides a safe and culturally relevant space for Teacher Artists and students to make intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and musical connections. Heartbeat has given underprivileged and underserved Diné children the musical opportunity to convert their own vibrations of thought, heart, and soul using western instruments, allowing them to become centered and explore endless possibilities. In addition to my work with Heartbeat, I am Diné and teach at the Navajo Technical University as Assistant Professor of Diné Culture, Language, and Leadership. Tódích’íí’nii nishłį̨́, Ta’neeszahnii baa shishchiin, Tótsohii da shicheii dóó Tł’ááshchí’í éídah shinalí (I am Bitter Water clan, born for Tangle Water clan, Big Water are my maternal grandfathers, and Painted Cheeks are my paternal grandfathers).
brian bibb
Development Director
Hi, I’m Brian Bibb, and I am the Development Director for the Heartbeat Music Project! Additionally, I’m a professional musician and music educator based in New York City. I’ve performed with symphony orchestras, jazz orchestras, on cruise ships, and in coffee shops. As a passionate teacher, I have taught music theory, saxophone, guitar, and piano, and have been a teacher at the Heartbeat Music Project 2018 and 2019 Summer Sessions. I am so excited to have the privilege of helping this wonderful project grow – it is truly amazing to be a part of the Heartbeat team, and I always look forward to every visit I have to New Mexico!
gregory lewis
Communications Director
Hello everyone! My name is Gregory Lewis, and I am thrilled to serve as Communications Coordinator for the Heartbeat Music Project. My primary duties include maintaining our website, managing social media, and publicity. Prior to this, I was a Teaching Artist at the Heartbeat Music Project 2018 Summer Session and 2018 Winter Workshop. On the side, I also play the violin! I’ve had the opportunity to perform throughout North America and Europe as a solo, chamber, and orchestra musician, appearing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Consortium Aurora Borealis, Colburn Academy Virtuosi, and the University of Manitoba Symphony Orchestra. I hold degrees from the University of Manitoba and Yale University, and currently live in Los Angeles, where I attend the Colburn Conservatory. You can usually find me in a corner with a good book and dark coffee, taking breaks to play Scrabble with anybody interested in challenging me.
advisory board members
Natasha Brofsky,
Cello Faculty at the Juilliard School
Dr. Wesley K Thomas,
Dean of Navajo Technical University
Jennifer Kaskalla,
Assistant to the Dean of the Navajo Preparatory School

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