BRAVO Stanford Thompson and Play on Philly! We are delighted to share this article which appeared in Forbes on September 21st…

Why One Millennial Musician Is Working To Save Music Education

I cover how millennials find purpose as CEO of Practice Makes Perfect.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

TWEET THIS

As kids are just about wrapping up their first month of school across the United States, one millennial, Stanford Thompson is continuing to make his mark through music. In 2010, Thompson founded Play On, Philly! (POP) to inspire children and adults across the United States to appreciate the power of music and orchestras. “I believe that art is a powerful tool that can solve society’s most compelling problems and that artists can be a powerful driver of the measurable differences that society and our communities need,” said Thompson.

One study out of the University of California at Los Angeles found that students who reported consistent high-levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years showed significantly higher levels of proficiency in math than their counterparts. The findings were consistent across socioeconomic status. “Students in our programs score higher on standardized tests in English and math. They also have better study skills and demonstrate better executive functioning skills like determination and focus,” said Thompson. The results prove that music education can make a quantifiable difference in a child’s life.

Traci-Ann Delisser

Stanford Thompson, Founder & Executive Director, Play On Philly!

Thompson started playing the trumpet at the age of 8 and was studying with members of the Georgia State University Faculty and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. His parents were both music educators and he attended The Curtis Institute of Music, the most selective music conservatory in the world. “Not only am I the product of what I preach, I grew up in a family of music educators and professional musicians that have helped thousands of people realize their potential through music. As I see more and more music programs eliminated from our schools and arts organizations cease operations due to the lack of support, I have dedicated my career and life to be on the front lines of making change in this field so that millions of people can benefit from art in the future,” Thompson shared.

Today, he serves on a handful of organization boards that have increasing music access at the core of their missions. Since 2010, Thompson and his team have secured over $9 million in funding, which has impacted the lives of hundreds of children growing up in Philadelphia. The programs run by POP are meant to prioritize program and student evaluation to produce quantifiable results. “Our approach to achieving these results is effectively planning for the development trajectory of a student through clear goal setting for the students and holding everyone involved in the programming to high-expectations,” said Thompson.

The organization Thompson leads runs tuition-free programs for over 300 students ages five through eighteen each weekday afterschool and a six-week summer program. According to Thompson, music education is about much more than exposure to the arts. He approaches his work in a data-driven way with a focus on figuring out how music can change the life of a person. He believes music can provide us with the strategies we need to take society’s biggest challenges and turn them into an opportunity for success.

“My time building POP has convinced me that we have all the resources we need to provide those who are poor, marginalized and vulnerable with access to the arts. We simply need to build the will to allow those resources to be used in new and innovative ways,” said Thompson.