Play On, Philly! (POP) is a music education program with the priority of serving the social and cultural needs of at-risk children in the City of Philadelphia. The program focuses on providing an environment of opportunity through the collective practice of music in orchestral playing as models of academic and life skills-development, social organization, and community building. POP provides an educational and social preparedness program while developing musical knowledge and performance skills at a high level.

The program provides group orchestral instrument instruction, general music education, choral singing, percussion, trips to musical offerings throughout the city, and exposure to world-renowned artists and ensembles. Every student enrolled to participate receives a full-tuition scholarship which covers the costs of music instruction from the region’s finest teaching artists, and all necessary musical supplies. Families are expected to pay a small participation fee throughout the course of the year, if they are able.

Fundamental Elements:

  • Mission of Social Change: POP is a social program which uses music education to accomplish our goals. Every child is an asset and takes ownership for themselves and the ensemble. 
  • Access and Excellence: POP includes as many children as possible, does not require an audition, and does not charge tuition to participate. The program strives single-mindedly toward musical excellence for all students, preparing them for participation in various ensembles and cultivating them as leaders in their own communities.
  • POP Environment: The program is a physical location, within the students’ neighborhood where they live, that embodies the values and goals of POP. It is a haven of safety, fun, joy, and friendship, with an ethos of positivity and aspiration, where all students are encouraged to explore their potential.
  • Intensity: Students spend at least two hours each weekday at POP. Classes and rehearsals are fast paced and rigorous, demanding a durable commitment, personal responsibility, and a strong work ethic. Through frequent performances, students have many opportunities to excel and to share their accomplishments with their peers, family, and community.
  • Ensemble: The learning in POP is primarily based in ensemble experience which is balanced with individualized attention. The ensemble acts as a model society in which an atmosphere of competition between individuals is replaced by shared struggle.
  • Teachers as Models: Those who work and teach at POP take on many responsibilities and roles beyond teaching their designated classes. By acting as citizens, artists, and teachers, these adults encourage their students to develop holistically: as active musicians, helpful educators, inquisitive learners and responsible civic contributors.
  • Multi-year Continuum: A student’s participation in the program is never determined by meeting a minimum level of musical ability. Students are expected to advance from the POP program before they enter high school and continue their musical involvement in ensemble settings.
  • Family and Community Inclusion: Family participation is an essential aspiration of POP and is the strongest asset to the program. A family can best be involved by attending performances and volunteering time to support the program. The community can best be involved by spreading awareness of POP and donating resources to the development of the program.
  • Connections and Network: As POP expands, additional sites will customize their programs to best fit the community that they serve. The fundamental elements, core values, and goals of POP will provide a unified vision for the development of programs around the City of Philadelphia. Students from around the city will have the opportunities to participate in communal music making with the nation’s best music educators, conductors, and artists.

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