The performing arts program, Harmony in the Air, launched at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in 2015.
The hustle of Houston’s airports is constant, boisterous and out-of-tune. It may be easy to feel disconnected, even when part of a crowd moving together through TSA security or within the terminal, or down a jet bridge. The sporadic bursts of customer service representatives over the P.A. system break the rhythm of suitcases skating across terrazzo flooring. An airplane taking off feels like a blockbuster movie screened in surround sound. One-way conversations of passengers talking on the phone compete with conversations between family and friends traveling together.
An airport is a cacophony of sounds --- a rumbling jetliner connecting with concrete, pings from an approaching Skytrain, seconds-long snippets of music or video blasting from the handheld devices of passengers on the move. The incessant soundtrack of life-within-the-airport is almost enough to drown out the heartbeat of it all --- connection.
But like a vibrant wildflower rising up and out from a dusty crack of concrete, live musical performances at Houston’s airports are the peace that lulls the loud.
Harmony in the Air is a performing arts program within Houston Airports. The program, which began in 2015, is expanding at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in 2023.
A custom sinuous stage carved out of white oak and worthy of a major metropolitan concert hall now supports weekday Harmony in the Air performances inside Terminal A from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
On Fridays, guests can now experience live R&B and pop music inside Terminal C from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
LEARN MORE | Harmony in the Air at Bush Airport
LEARN MORE | Harmony in the Air at Hobby Airport
More than 75 of Houston’s most accomplished professional musicians play bossa nova, jazz or classical pieces to infuse a peaceful harmony into the airport’s hustle.
Melodies help make connections.
Music convinces people to put down their devices and shorten their stride. Soulful performances in the middle of an airport’s terminal invite passengers to explore the world around them and engage with their fellow travelers. Smiles dazzle and eyes glitter as harpists, string quartets and contemporary pianists serve as tour guides on the unexpected adventure guests choose to take on their way to their gates.
Houston Airports welcomed an estimated 54 million people to Bush Airport and William P. Hobby Airport in 2022. The crowds are massive, yet each performance feels incredibly intimate.
In November 2022 it was as if Mark Prause took a seat at a baby grand piano just to serenade Janice Haddy.
He played. She listened.
Weeks later, with his live performance still imprinted on her heart, Haddy took to pen and paper:
Harmony in the Air is a special gift to Janice Haddy and so many others. Maricela Kruseman has the proof. She founded Harmony in the Air in 2015 and is the program’s director.
Over the last several years, Kruseman’s received and preserved handwritten letters, emails, comment cards and photographs of musicians with their grateful audience. Passengers from all over the world have found a way and taken the time to express their appreciation for the airport amenity they didn’t know they needed; a performing arts program.
“The continuous expansion and extraordinary success of Harmony in the Air is the result of combining several elements to make a difference in the comfort of the passengers by creating a live music program unique in its beauty, content and presentation,” said Maricela Kruseman, Program Director of Harmony in the Air. A successful management model, concert-like performances, beautiful custom-made stages, and branding and promotion, are the ingredients for a memorable, positive and uplifting travel experience. And not only that, but Harmony in the Air has also generated exceptional social media content, and has enhanced Houston’s status as a vibrant, friendly and cosmopolitan gateway city, and contributed to the city’s creative economy growth.”
Kruseman cherishes the praise for the performances and musicians much like a parent treasures handmade cards from their children. It’s impossible for her to choose a favorite. Among all possible sights, sounds and sensory experiences at Houston’s airports, thousands and thousands and thousands of people have and continue to choose to listen to live music – inside airport terminals and outside, along Houston’s streets.
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, MOCA, is working to share and spread live musical performances throughout the 4th largest city in the United States of America. MOCA, which fosters an environment for art and culture to expand, supports local musicians in their quest to share live music.
In September 2022, Houston City Council approved an ordinance establishing the City of Houston Music Advisory Board, HMAB. The 9-person board is a liaison between the music community and the City of Houston.
“This ordinance aligns with the City’s Arts & Cultural Plan that fosters an environment where art and culture flourish for the sharing and benefit of all citizens and visitors. We are incredibly grateful for establishing this music board and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s vision,” said Necole Irvin, Director of MOCA. “It will continue to add to our city’s rich history and allows us to continue to foster our vibrant music scene for years to come.”
That’s why a sense of place within Houston’s airports is so important. Harmony in the Air establishes the experience guests will realize when visiting Houston—even if they never leave the airport.
In January 2023, David Peters flew into Hobby Airport to make a connection to Chicago. Severe weather extended his layover in Houston. Via email, Peters wrote of his experience watching the Gerling-Mut Duo play classical violin and piano.
An expanding performing arts program in 2023 means more passengers will be able to make meaningful connections. Later this year Houston Airports will unveil an ultra-modern, sustainable and gorgeous new section of its international terminal at Bush Airport. The D-West Pier inside the existing Terminal D will create space for wide-body jets capable of reaching far-off destinations; it will create opportunities for 5-Star restaurants and world-class retail experiences, and the new Terminal D-West Pier will create momentum for the music program that’s captured hearts and broken through the noise.
“The new Harmony in the Air stage that will be installed in Terminal D-West Pier will highlight Houston Airports commitment to excellence in customer service satisfaction. Like the other Harmony in the Air stages, this one will replicate a concert hall in miniature, providing a prestigious branding for Houston Airports,” explained Kruseman. “The stage will be located in an area with great lighting and acoustics and will be a central focus of all the anticipated food and beverage concessions that will be nearby the stage. The location is primo and will reach a large number of international passengers so the musicians’ exposure and experience will be fantastic! The stage will be surrounded by comfortable seating areas and tables with outlets to encourage the passengers to sit and relax with the beautiful sounds of music!”