And yet, and yet…I will be participating in a Conducting Institute in a couple of weeks, along with as many as 30 "future and current music educators in the public schools"* conducting band and chorus, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Music, acoustical music, is alive and well in the US. Music from these two groups is still a Big Thing. (There are jazz ensembles and bands for athletic events too, but that's not the focus here.) A whole band of harmonicas at this time is a thing of the past, at least in the US; incorporating them in a wind ensemble or orchestra in their own section is a long ways off.
Then again, there are other instruments in the same boat: steel drums, hand bells, recorders, who play with their own, but aren't going to make it to Prime Time anytime soon. Popular? Not by the broadest definition. Harmonicas, welcome to the club. Be proud. Promote. Don't expect miracles.
*For whatever reason, they accepted me as a Participant. When asked for "current position," I wrote, "acting associate conductor of the Blanche Moyse Chorale; substitute music director, All Souls Church." Maybe they figured I could be a future teacher, although my last public school gig was almost 40 years ago. Bottom line: they probably had room for me, and wanted my money.