The Philadelphia Orchestra partners with Play On, Philly! (POP), an El Sistema-inspired education and social initiative, to provide young West Philadelphia musicians with their debut Verizon Hall performance on Saturday, April 28. Under the direction of internationally renowned guest conductor Sir Simon Rattle, the POP Symphony Orchestra gave a brief performance of themes from the fourth movement of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 to open the concert, after which the Orchestra’s regular subscription concert continued with Brahms’s Symphony No. 3. The students, and their parents, became acquainted with Verizon Hall, Mr. Rattle, and Philadelphia Orchestra musicians at a regular Orchestra rehearsal earlier in the week.
Play on Philly! was inspired by Venezuela’s nationwide El Sistema program, which seeks to use music as a vehicle for social innovation for children who would not otherwise have access to music education. Founded by Curtis graduate Stanford Thompson in 2011 at St. Francis de Sales School, POP provides 110 students a tuition-free opportunity to master a standard orchestra instrument during daily three-hour practice sessions taught by some of the region’s most talented teaching artists. Mr. Thompson believes that through the collective practice of music, an orchestra can be a powerful model for an environment of opportunity, academic and life skills development, social organization, and community building.
As chief conductor and artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Mr. Rattle has participated in creative educational programming and with the Philharmonic has had close ties to the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, playing an active role in the development of the El Sistema program. By working together with The Philadelphia Orchestra and POP, he is helping both organizations fulfill their commitment to the Philadelphia community and highlight the importance of music education in the lives of young people.