Stanford Thompson, Founder and Executive Director of Play On Philly shares his thoughts on PBS’s News Hour.


Why learning to play music helps kids learn everything else better


After performing with a world-renowned orchestra, Stanford Thompson returned to Philadelphia to start Play on, Philly!, a free, afterschool music program for young children in under-resourced neighborhoods that helps them go back into the classroom and become better learners. Thompson gives his Brief but Spectacular take on how music can create harmony and opportunity.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Stanford Thomson:

    I grew up in a musical household in Atlanta. And I have seven siblings. We all played music. My parents are both retired music educators.

    And we always had a rule in our house that you only ate on the days that you practiced.

    They taught me and my siblings growing up that we would have opportunities that they didn’t. And if we took advantage of them, then we could see ourselves on a path to become a professional musician.

    I was able to study with musicians with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and worked really hard to earn a spot at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. I was able to play the staples of the orchestral and chamber music repertoire with world-renowned conductors and musicians just about every week.

    I went back to Philadelphia in 2010 and founded “lay On, Philly!, which now serves over 300 students every day after school for three hours. We work in under-resourced neighborhoods, mainly in West Philadelphia.

    And each student is able to access our program tuition-free, and able to get access to get high-quality instruments and teachers on a daily basis.

    It might sound like that our aim is for these kids to become professional musicians. We really care most about them becoming really great people. Our kids are still performing a letter grade ahead in every academic subject.

    And we know it’s because we teach them to expand their memory, to control inhibition, to help them lengthen the amount of time that they can focus on something.

    These are skills that they learn the moment they begin to make music.

    Take a violinist. They have to figure on their left hand where to put their finger to create a certain pitch. Their right hand, of course, will then control how long they’re able to hold that note. They also have to look at the music and determine which note they are supposed to play, how loud, how fast or how slow.

    When you stimulate the brain like that for hours every single day, then that’s what helps to turn the clock on some of the damage that is done because of the amount of stress they live with and, of course, brain development.

    That’s really important, especially for younger kids, to make sure that they can go back into a classroom, focus for a longer period of time, be able to memorize the information, so they can go home and do the homework, and then recall it later at the end of the year on a standardized test.

    We all have the responsibility of providing the best instruments to the poorest kids, that we provide the best teachers to the most marginalized kids, and that we continue to provide the best musical opportunities for the most vulnerable kids.

    My name is Stanford Thompson. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on how music can create harmony and opportunity.


There is another great piano performance on WRTI’s Steinway Spirio to look forward to today!

We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder, host of this  outstanding Astral Artist performance:

Listen LIVE from the WRTI Performance Studio: Pianist Henry Kramer, Friday, March 9


Join us Friday, March 9 at 4 pm for a live performance with the exciting, young American pianist Henry Kramer. A Maine native, Henry’s playing has been lauded as “triumphant” and “thrilling” (The New York Times.)

Henry has won top prizes in many international piano competitions, including the 2016 Queen Elisabeth Competition, the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition, and the 2011 Montreal International Music Competition. He’s appeared as soloist under the batons of such distinguished conductors as Marin Alsop, Jan Pascal Tortelier, Stéphane Denève, and Hans Graf.

A winner of Astral’s 2015 National Auditions, he’ll be making his Philadelphia Center City début under Astral’s auspices this coming Sunday.

For Friday’s performance in the WRTI performance studio, Henry will chat with host Debra Lew Harder and play from two iconic works for solo piano, Schumann’s Kreisleriana, and Ravel’s Miroirs.

Be sure to tune in to hear this engaging young artist, and hear the fascinating stories behind the music, as well as his stellar artistry.


Robert SchumannKreisleriana — Movement 4 (Sehr langsam)

Maurice RavelMiroirs — Une barque sur l’ocean, and Alborada del gracioso

TODAY at 1:00 PM, tune in to KIDS ON KEYS, hosted by WWFM – The Classical Network and its Artist-in-Residence, Jed Distler.


This monthly show is sponsored by Jacobs Music Company, and showcases live performances with some of the best young piano talent in the area. Also featured are historic recordings by future piano icons such as today’s recording of a young Evgeny Kissin.

This week’s program presents:
Emily Wu: Mendelssohn: Hunting Song
Gabriel McGivern-Jimenez Hisaishi: The Sixth Station
Sahil Malhotra Liszt: Un Sospiro
Evgeny Kissin Chopin: Polonaise in F-sharp Minor Op. 44
Liana Rieger Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, Prelude in C Major
Daniel Lu Prokofiev: Prelude in C Major Op. 12 No. 7
Elizabeth Yank Mendelssohn: Variations Serieuses Op. 54
Andy Wu Kapustin: Piano Sonata No. 6, First Movement

KIDS ON KEYS can be heard at 89.1 on the radio dial or streamed from the station’s website to enjoy this remarkable young talent!

Tune in to WRTI on Monday or watch on Facebook Live as the “WRTI 90.1 Celebrates Steinway” series concludes with a performance by Steinway Artist Igor Resnianski!

We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Kevin Gordon, host of these outstanding performances:

Steinway Artist Igor Resnianski LIVE from WRTI 90.1: March 5 at 12:10 PM

  MAR 1, 2018

Our celebration of the 165th anniversary of Steinway & Sons pianos concludes on Monday, March 5th with a live in-studio performance by the Russian-born pianist Igor Resnianski. Kevin Gordon is host.

Watch the broadcast on WRTI’s Facebook Page!

Scarlatti: Sonata in E-flat Major
Scarlatti: Sonata in B Minor
Beethoven: Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109, 1st movement
Chopin: Mazurkas Op. 24, No. 1 and No. 2

Dr. Resnianski is an Assistant Professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania in West Chester, PA. He also teaches at the Nelly Berman School of Music in Haverford, PA. He has won prizes for his playing in the New Orleans International Piano Competition, the International World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, the Nena Wideman International Piano Competition in Louisiana, the First China International Piano Competition in Beijing, and the All Russian Piano Competition.

In 1996, Igor made his concerto debut in the U.S. with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and in South America performing a solo recital at the International Music Festival in Medellin, Colombia.

He’s given solo recitals across the U.S. and in China.

Igor has been named named “Music Teacher of the Year” by the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association and is a sought-after teacher who regularly gives master classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. He is a faculty and guest artist at the TCU/ Cliburn Piano Institute Fort Worth, Texas, is on the faculty of Piano Texas International Academy and Festival and has lectured at Rutgers University during the Mozart summer course. He is a regular faculty of the New Orleans Piano Institute and the University of Houston Piano Institute.

*Special thanks to Jacobs Music for making our “WRTI 90.1 Celebrates Steinway” series possible.

The celebration of the 165th Anniversary of Steinway & Sons continues with CHARLES ABRAMOVIC performing LIVE from WRTI 90.1: March 2 at 12:10 PM!

We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Kevin Gordon, host of these outstanding performances:


Join us for the fifth live broadcast in our series celebrating the 165th anniversary of Steinway & Sons pianos, featuring Steinway artist Charles Abramovic. WRTI’s Kevin Gordon is host.

Watch the broadcast on the WRTI Facebook Page!

Charles has taught at Temple University since 1988 and is an active part of the musical life here in Philadelphia, performing with many different organizations across the city. He is a core member of the Dolce Suono Ensemble, and performs often with Network for New Music and Orchestra 2001. His repertoire includes not only the piano, but also the harpsichord and fortepiano.

His solo orchestral debut was at the age of 14 with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and he’s appeared as soloist with orchestras including the Baltimore Symphony, the Colorado Philharmonic, the Florida Philharmonic, and the Nebraska Chamber Orchestra.

Charles has given solo recitals throughout the United States, France and Yugoslavia. He has also appeared at major international festivals in Berlin, Salzburg, Bermuda, Dubrovnik, Aspen and Vancouver.

He has also recorded the solo piano works of Delius, as well as making recordings with violinist Sarah Chang, and with Philadelphia Orchestra principal flutist Jeffrey Khaner.

*Special thanks to Jacobs Music for making our “WRTI 90.1 Celebrates Steinway” series possible.

Tune in to WRTI tomorrow for day four of the Steinway 165th Anniversary Celebration (or stream it live on Facebook)!

We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Kevin Gordon, host of these outstanding performances:

Steinway Artist Ching-Yun Hu Plays Rachmaninoff LIVE from WRTI 90.1: March 1 at 12:10 PM


Our celebration of the 165th anniversary of Steinway & Sons pianos continues on Thursday, March 1 at 12:10 pm with a performance by Ching-Yun Hu. WRTI’s Kevin Gordon is host.

Ching-Yun will play three works by Rachmaninoff: “Lilacs,” “Vocalise,” Etudes-Tableaux Opus 39, Numbers 8 and 9, as well as the Gershwin/Wild work “Embraceable You.”

Watch it LIVE on the WRTI Facebook Page!

A familiar name in Philadelphia musical circles, Ching-Yun Hu founded the Philadelphia Young Pianists Academy five years ago, a piano festival that takes place at the Curtis Institute of Music every summer. She serves on the piano faculty of the Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University.

She’s also visiting professor at the Shenzhen Arts School and an honorary artist of the Henan Cultural Center in China, and founded the Yun-Hsiang International Music Festival in Taipei in 2012.

Ching-Yun Hu made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1999 and has appeared at concert halls across the globe, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Aspen Music Festival, London’s Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre, Salle Cortot in Paris, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, as well as in Munich, Budapest, Poland, Israel, Taiwan and Japan.

Just last week, Ching-Yun recorded a new Rachmaninoff album at the WRTI 90.1 Performance Studio.

*Special thanks to Jacobs Music for making our “WRTI 90.1 Celebrates Steinway” series possible.


We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Kevin Gordon, host of these outstanding performances:

Steinway Artist Meng-Chieh Liu LIVE from WRTI 90.1: February 28 at 12:10 PM


Join us for the third live broadcast in our series celebrating the 165th anniversary of Steinway & Sons pianos, featuring Steinway artist Meng-Chieh Liu on February 28th at 12:10 pm. Meng-Chieh will play Schumann’s Eintritt from Waldszenen, Messiaen’s “Le Baiser de l’enfant Jesus,” and a Rachmaninoff Polka. WRTI’s Kevin Gordon is host.

Born in Taiwan, Meng-Chieh made headlines in 1993 as a 21-year-old student at The Curtis Institute of Music when he substituted at last-minute’s notice for André Watts at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

That concert was followed by a number of performances, including a recital at the Kennedy Center and a concert on the Philadelphia All-Star series.

An appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra had to be called off when Meng-Chieh came down with a rare illness. He was in the hospital for a year, but his determination along with physical therapy restored Meng-Chieh to health to full and he is once again performing on the concert stage.

Last season, Meng-Chieh appeared with orchestras in Philadelphia, Miami, Beijing, Shenzhen, Kunming, Qindao, and Taichung, collaborating with conductors Long Yu, Daye Lin, Kah Chun Wong, Guoyong Zhang and David Wetherill. He was the featured soloist with the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra.

The Steinway Celebration continues on WRTI!

We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Kevin Gordon, host of these outstanding performances:

Steinway Artist Maria Asteriadou LIVE from WRTI 90.1: February 27 at 12:10pm


Join us for the second live broadcast in our series celebrating the 165th anniversary of Steinway & Sons pianos, featuring the Greek pianist Maria Asteriadou and her husband, violin soloist and concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra Kurt Nikkanen. WRTI’s Kevin Gordon is host.

Maria and Kurt will perform the Saint-Saens Sonata for Violin and Piano in D minor, op.75, Tuesday, February 27 at 12:10 pm LIVE from our Performance Studio.

Maria’s performances have taken her throughout the world, appearing in recitals and as soloist with orchestras in the United States, South America, Canada and Europe. She’s the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including first prize in performance from the State Conservatory of Greece, and top prize in the Maria Callas International Piano Competition.

She teaches at Manhattan School of Music and at Kutztown University, serves as director of the Chamber Music Outreach Program and is the Artistic Director of the Kutztown University Summer Chamber Music Festival.

Maria has been an artist-faculty member at many festivals including the University of Michigan’s Summer Arts Institute, Canada’s International School of Musical Arts, El Paso Pro Musica, and the West Branch International Music Festival in New York.

*Special thanks to Jacobs Music for making our “WRTI 90.1 Celebrates Steinway” series possible.

WRTI is celebrating THE 165TH ANNIVERSARY OF STEINWAY & SONS with a series of live broadcasts from the WRTI Performance Studio beginning this Monday at 12:10 pm with a performance by Steinway Artist Eric Fung. Tune in and enjoy!

We are pleased to share the following article by WRTI’s Kevin Gordon who will be hosting these outstanding performances:

Steinway Artist Eric Fung LIVE from WRTI 90.1: Feb. 26 at 12:10 PM


We’re celebrating the 165th anniversary of Steinway pianos with six LIVE broadcasts from the WRTI 90.1 Performance Studio by Steinway artists.  Our series takes off in style on Monday, February 26 at 12:10 pm with a performance by Eric Fung. WRTI’s Kevin Gordon is host.

Eric will play the “Overture” from J.S. Bach’s Overture in the French manner, the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in A-minor, the Intermezzo in A-minor of Brahms and Debussy’s “Le Vent dans la Plaine”.

Eric won second-prize at the Thirteenth International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig.

He has played at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Bach Festival, the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, European Piano Forum in Berlin, the Puigcerda Music Festival in Spain, the Kamerman Piano Series in Pensacola, the Lancaster International Piano Festival, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Besides being associate professor of piano at Lebanon Valley College, Eric has taught master classes across the U.S. as well as in China and Israel.

Eric’s doctorate comes from the Juilliard School, with degrees from the Eastman School of Music.

He’s in demand as a competition judge in the Delaware Valley, too, having judged the Lancaster Symphony  Concerto Competition, the Greater Princeton Steinway Society Scholarship Competition, the New Jersey Music Teachers Association Piano Competition, and MTNA Competition.

We have had many wonderful applicants for the STEINWAY PIANO COMPETITION. Registration closes April 1st and audition slots are limited so please be sure to register soon!


This prestigious new competition just launched by Steinway & Sons offers young pianists the opportunity to compete for up to $1,000 in prize money and official recognition from this iconic world-class piano brand.

The new contest, open to artists aged 18 and under, will take place at Steinway-authorized locations throughout the United States and Canada, and Jacobs Music is pleased to have been identified as a regional host venue.

The competition will take place in our region on May 5-6 and and the Winners Recital and Awards Ceremony will take place on June 3rd at the Jacobs Music Steinway Selection Center, 1718 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia 19103.

Performances—consisting of at least two contrasting pieces of contrasting style and period—will be judged by professional piano adjudicators, and all participants will receive judges’ comments and commemorative Steinway certificates of achievement. First-, second-, and third-place winners will also receive Steinway lyre medals and recognition on the Steinway & Sons website.

Please share this exciting news with the young pianists in your life! Full contest information, including registration information, is available at