How We Work

Philadelphia is fortunate to have a number of music education organizations but Play On, Philly! differs in a few key ways:

  • Rigor: We provide 2.5 hours of programming every day after school which allows for significant improvements and a depth of learning that is difficult to achieve in other settings. It also gives our degreed and experienced Teaching Artists the chance to develop relationships with the students, providing attention and setting high expectations for their achievements.
  • Longevity: Offering this program to students in kindergarten through 12th grade means that we can follow them throughout their academic career for long-term impact. It also allows for the development of mentoring relationships between students.
  • Open Access: In order to join POP you do not need past experience, skills, an instrument or tuition. Every student deserves access to arts education and we aim to remove as many barriers as we can.
  • Proven Results: Since 2012, POP has prioritized program and student evaluation to produce quantifiable results. The evidence is clear that our students our perform their non-participating peers, for example scoring ten points higher in math and English Language Arts.

Our approach to achieving these results is effectively planning for the development trajectory of a student through clear goal setting for students (and teachers!) and holding everyone to high expectations. The Program Director, Teaching Artists, and Site Directors work together to create curriculums and lesson plans that will encourage students to continually strive for the next level of skills. Throughout the year, teachers evaluate progress so that students have help when they are struggling and goal readjustment for those who are excelling.

K-8 Program
Our K-8 teaching focuses first on developing basic musical skills, then honing their instrumental skills and incorporating them with ensemble performance. All of these steps simultaneously build upon students’ growing patience, determination, team-work and problem solving. As many students are learning an instrument for the first time, more experienced students are encouraged to assist and mentor those who are beginners, utilizing their critical thinking skills and empathy.

POP Academy
Open for high school students Monday – Friday, the structure of POP Academy is tailored for greater flexibility and to give teenage students a wide breadth of experiences and preparation for successful futures post graduation. High school students have a number of commitments and interests from evening jobs to other extracurricular activities. As such there are two levels of participation offered: one for those who can only participate three days a weeks and those who can participate five days a week. Each track has its own obligations and responsibilities to which students are held accountable. Everyday after school students are offered tuition-free sessions on a variety of topics, instrumental instruction and orchestral practice. The year is organized into 10-week sessions in addition to regular ensemble and orchestral work. A Student Council was formed so that teens gain experience as leaders and in decision making.

Summer Music Institute
We provide a 6-week summer program that is open to all young musicians in Philadelphia. The rigorous program runs for several hours each day and immerses children in musical instruction, hands-on learning activities, educational games, and performances. Teenage students are invited to help as interns.

Guest Artists
A unique and inspiring aspect of POP programming is that we provide learning opportunities for our students to engage with renowned guest artists. POP has worked informally with varied and diverse guest artists from Philadelphia and beyond since our 2011 founding. Prior guest artists have included Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, the Borromeo String Quartet and the Harlem Quartet. These artists have joined our students on stage to perform with them and have led masters classes and workshops.

Guest artists bring an unparalleled richness and depth to our programming. Students who might never even see a cello or a violin, let alone sit in the audience of a renowned artist, are sharing the stage with master musicians. These experiences bring our programming alive for students and families who would otherwise never experience these cultural gifts. Renowned artists bring diversity: they expose our students to different musical styles, instruments from around the world and techniques from performance to composition to improvisation. Workshops and classes led by our artists deepen our students’ learning while bringing extraordinary inspiration. Students consistently report that meeting and practicing with professionals and hearing them play is some of their favorite, most enriching parts of POP.



Play On, Philly! (POP) provides intensive music education to K-12 students, who would typically lack access, as a vehicle for life skills and academic achievement

For 2½ hours every day, students enjoy instrument instruction and ensemble practice completely tuition-free