Play On, Philly! Founder Joins in Screening of Documentary Spotlighting the Successful Youth Music Initiative

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Steven Woolfolk
Play On, Philly! Founder Joins in Screening of Documentary<br> Spotlighting the Successful Youth Music Initiative

(Kansas City, Missouri) - Hundreds of students in underserved Philadelphia communities have received daily musical instruction through the after-school Play On, Philly! initiative, modeled after Venezuela's acclaimed El Sistema youth orchestra project.

Its founder and artistic director, Stanford Thompson, appears Wednesday, April 1, 2015, at the Library's Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., for the screening of a 90-minute documentary film spotlighting the program. Directed by Jamie Bernstein, the daughter of composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein, Crescendo: The Power of Music also features New York's El Sistema-inspired Harmony Program.

Thompson will take audience questions after the 2 p.m. screening.

The longtime musician and instructor is in residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance for four days through Friday, April 3, working with Kansas City-area high school and preparatory school students through the Conservatory's Musical Bridges program. The program helps young musicians prepare for college auditions by offering one-on-one instruction and performance experience.

"Nationally, Stanford Thompson is one to watch," says the Conservatory's dean, Peter Witte. "A superb musician, educator, and leader, Stanford guides a program that has secured more than $4 million for music education in Philadelphia. We're honored to invite him to Kansas City as our second Francis Family Foundation Musical Bridges Fellow."

Established in 2011 at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia, Play On, Philly! started with 110 students ages 6-13. It established a second location at Freire Charter Middle School a year later, expanding its reach to 250 students.

The program engages the entire community through partnerships, community events, and 30 performances a year in venues across the Philadelphia region. Its mission is to "foster life skills among its participants by providing high-quality music education to children who would otherwise not receive it."

Crescendo, released in October 2014, features two of the program's young participants: 11-year-old Raven, a natural on the violin whose rambunctiousness brings her trouble, and the quieter Zebadiah, 13, whose viola serves as a cure for loneliness. The film also follows Mohammed, an 11-year-old trombone star in the Harmony Program in New York's Harlem neighborhood whose failing grades cast a shadow on his music making.

The documentary tracks the youngsters' evolution as they confront their fears and master their instruments, interacting with talented, dedicated teachers.

Thompson, who chairs El Sistema USA, has long worked at using music for social action. He also serves on the boards of Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum, and the Jubilee School in Nashville, Tennessee, and as chairman of alumni council of Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. Trained as a professional trumpeter, he has performed with major orchestras around the world.

The event is co-presented by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Admission is free. RSVP at or call 816.701.3407.

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