Triple Hill Arts Initiative  ::  Mount Vernon, New York  ::
Serving the artists and the community of Mount Vernon, New York

The Triple Hill Arts Initiative is a direct result of the 2007 Triple Hill Music Festival.

The name Triple Hill is inspired by the City of Mount Vernon’s City Seal.  Created in 1892, the three hills shown on the City Seal represent the highest points in the city.  For us, the name represents the entire City of Mount Vernon coming together to participate in this project!


In 2006, a partnership was formed with residents, grassroots community organizations and the Westchester Arts Council to apply, through the Westchester Arts Council, for the New York State Music Fund.  The Triple Hill Music Festival project received a generous grant award in the amount of $115,000.


The New York State Music Fund was established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors when investigations into the practice of “payola” or “pay for play” by major recording and broadcasting companies were resolved. These settlements stipulated that funds paid by the music businesses should benefit the residents of New York State through music education and appreciation programs.

To date, the Music Fund has awarded nearly 400 grants totaling over $35 million for exemplary contemporary music of all genres being created by today’s composers and musicians including new classical music, jazz, folk music from around the world, experimental music, and noncommercial forms of popular music. In addition to the creation and performance of new music, the Music Fund supports school and community-based educational programs, and recording and media dissemination projects that expand public access to music.


The purpose of the 2007 Triple Hill Music Festival is exposure, awareness and hands-on involvement through direct interaction with musical material. The Festival combined performances, riveting in-school master classes, library programming, and the interaction of major and local artists with eager students and the community. It presented a dynamic music education program to the next generation of young musicians and to the community of Mount Vernon. The Festival offered exceptional forms of musicianship for free to over 2,500 Mount Vernon residents from April through July 2007 in each of the public schools, the Boys and Girls Club, the Mount Vernon Public Library, the Doles Community Center, and City Hall.

The anchor of the Festival, “Rock My Soul: The Black Legacy of Rock and Roll”, was an exhibition of commissioned works by ten Detroit-based African American artists whose art represents different genres of music. It is the first time this acclaimed exhibit was shown in the state of New York.  A gallery was created in the rotunda of the Mount Vernon Public Library through panels donated by the Westchester Arts Council, and refurbished by residents of Mount Vernon.  Rock My Soul was made possible by collaboration between the Arts League of Michigan and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with support from the Ford Motor Company. 

Master Classes and public performances during the Festival featured an impressive roster of local and national artists:

  • Broadway star and resident LaChanze launched the festival in April with an inspiring speech given to students at Mount Vernon High School, and was granted the Key to the City for her community service efforts.

  • Washington, DC’s Duke Ellington Show Choir dazzled and amazed audiences with their professional performance skills.

  • Resident and Acid Jazz progenitor Melvin Sparks brought out fans of live music to the Doles Center.

  • A week-long boot camp was held at the Boys & Girls Club by New York City's Scratch DJ Academy ending with a special community performance finale featuring the creator of the technique, Grandwizzard Theodore. 

  • International bluesman Guy Davis gave students at Mandela High School a musical history of the Blues genre through vivid stories and songs. 

  • The Fred Smith Jazz Ensemble gave a musical history of the genre to elementary and middle school students.  Fred Smith proved that no matter your circumstances - rich, poor, black, white - you can be successful at whatever you set your mind to, if you work hard at it.

  • All-female ensemble SAGE made classical instruments fun, and showed elementary school students the wide range of music that an instrument could convey, from country, to jazz, reggae, and classical.

  • Ossining, NY folk guitarist KJ Denhert & the NY Unit created a new following of fans within the city melding folk, blues and Latino rhythms.
  • Parade favorites Samba New York! entertained children in many of the elementary schools and at the Doles Center.  By teaching the history of the music, instruments and culture it made us realize that we have a lot in common with our Brazilian brethren.

  • A core group of music students at Mount Vernon High School received training on Ableton's Live 6 recording software donated by Guitar Center (Larchmont).  Grammy-award winning ASCAP songwriters Barry Eastmond and Gordon Chambers gave MVHS students insight into the business side of music, and the Live 6 students had the opportunity to perform an original song.

  • Gospel impresario Richard Smallwood, a legacy in the genre, closed the festival with a special multi-denominational, multigenerational community workshop and outdoor performance featuring 21 area churches.  The concert broke attendance records (over 1,000 people attended).

The Festival revealed many strengths and weaknesses of the current cultural and artistic landscape of the City of Mount Vernon.  The Triple Hill Arts Initiative is being developed to strengthen and sustain this landscape.  This initiative is the first of many steps to facilitate partnerships and create innovative public programming.