How We Work

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

  • Rigor: We provide weekly instruction throughout the school year in our Preparatory Programs and 2 hours of instruction every day after school in our Music Centers, 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.

POP Preparatory (Grades K – 8) 
POP Preparatory programming is designed to provide general music and ensemble exploration for students up to 3 hours each week in order for students and families to experience the positive benefits of music education. This programming may be delivered in one of two models: as part of the core curriculum during the school day or included in the programmatic offerings of an existing after school provider. Families who understand the commitment necessary to receive the full impact of our core programs will be encouraged to register their students in our Music Centers.

POP Music Centers (Grades K – 8)
Our most celebrated programming has proven to positively impact academic achievement and pro-social behavior by developing the emotional, cognitive and behavioral skills necessary for a successful life. Our Music Centers offer each student 10 hours of group instruction each week throughout the school year and 20 hours of musical instruction each week for six weeks in the summer. Students are loaned, at no cost, one of fourteen standard orchestral instruments and receive approximately 450 hours of musical training and performance opportunities throughout the school year and summer.

POP Academy (Grades 9 – 12) 
High School students throughout Philadelphia, including those graduating from our Music Centers, are eligible to participate in a unique program that provides opportunities for students to find their voice in a structured and open environment. This program will allow students to discuss the various social issues they face and express themselves artistically through musical collaboration. Guest speakers will provide examples of what we can do to make positive change in our community while workshops in college and career readiness will prepare our students for full economic and social participation in society.

POP Symphony Orchestra (Grades 7 – 12)
Our advanced middle and high school students are welcomed to audition to join the POP Symphony Orchestra (POPSO). While each Music Center has ensemble training, POPSO is the flagship orchestra for the organization, representing POP at major events throughout the city and beyond. The repertoire is challenging and the level of commitment required is increased from our other programs. These students will need to be engaged in individual and ensemble practice for 12 hours each week.

POP Emerging Artist Collective (Grades 4 – 12)
The POP Emerging Artist Collective (PEAC) supports those students who have shown innate talents, as well as, expressed a serious interest in pursuing music in their educational and occupational future. Through the PEAC program, POP offers additional resources such as private lessons and audition preparation to those students. PEAC is also the bridge which connects POP’s high performing students with our partner organizations which focus on artistic excellence through the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth Artists’ Initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation. We offer the mentorship necessary to help these students achieve the required entrance standards of advanced youth ensembles, advocate for their inclusion, and help them find additional assistance if needed.

Summer Music Institute (Rising Grades 1 – 12)
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