Stanford Thompson is a tender 26 years-old but has already established a program that is trying to change music education in the city of Philadelphia. With Play on, Philly!, Thompson is combining his education and music skills to create a dynamic performing arts program for local elementary and middle school students.
“The vision for Play On, Philly! is to engage more children throughout the city and try to build programs in every section of the city and within every neighborhood,” Thompson explained.
The music initiative was inspired by a similar organization called El Sistema, which was introduced to Thompson in 2009 while he was participating in the New England Conservatory’s Abreu Fellows Program. During that time, he spent two months in Venezuela implementing the youth program designed to teach young people about music while sharpening their social and cognitive skills.
Growing up in Atlanta with musical parents, Thompson was one of eight children in whom music was instilled. At 8-years old, he began playing the trumpet. He was talented enough to attend the Curtis Institute of Music on a full music scholarship.
In 2011, he launched “Play On, Philly!” with a class of 110 students at St. Frances de Sales School. Today, the program mentors 250 Philadelphia pupils.
For Thompson, the collective is about much more than music. It’s a resource for kids with troubled backgrounds. Through the program students from ages 6 to 13 attend music classes for about three hours per day after school in Center City and West Philadelphia.
“This is an activity that can really help direct the behavior of children to obtain some goals they thought they might not be able to reach,” said Thompson. “Essentially, music should be dignified on a much higher level of creating human beings, not just creating entertainment.”
The still images in the video are courtesy of Stanford Thompson.