Press Releases


Premiere of “Hallelujahs of the Free” for speaker and orchestra by David Carpenter, commissioned by Play On, Philly!, part of the Mann’s Liberty: Unplugged! Festival, at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, May 2

PHILADELPHIA (April 15, 2015) -- Play On, Philly! has commissioned a work by local composer David Carpenter, as part of the Mann’s Liberty: Unplugged! festival commemorating three men and three movements that have changed the world: Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist movement; Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement; and Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. Carpenter’s work, “Hallelujahs of the Free,” for speaker and orchestra, uses the words of Frederick Douglass, whose writings not only fought for the abolitionist cause of the 19th century, but also speak to the civil rights struggles of today.

“Hallelujahs of the Free” will be performed on Saturday, May 2, 2015, 2:00 p.m. at the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 419 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia. The concert is the inaugural event of the Mann’s Liberty: Unplugged! festival.

Says Carpenter, “I knew who Frederick Douglass was, but it was not until I read his writings that I gained an appreciation of his profound impact on the abolitionist movement, which he joined after his escape from slavery in 1838. The words in my piece are drawn mainly from Douglass’s 1852 speech, ‘What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?’ In it, Douglass argues that the U.S. Constitution is, as he puts it, ‘a glorious liberty document,’ and that all Americans must live up to its spirit, put away their race prejudice, and abolish slavery once and for all.”

“There is no better way for our students to deeply understand the impact of activists like Frederick Douglass than through their own artistic expression,” says Stanford Thompson, Founder and Artistic Director of Play On, Philly! “Mr. Carpenter’s piece is a powerful way for them to connect with his story, and I believe the audience will feel that energy in his work as well. Working with David has helped our students make new connections with the rich culture many of them come from and one all of us can be proud of.”

Carpenter has written two other works with subject matter derived from the Civil War era: Variation 17 of his “Paul” variations, for speaker and piano, which used the words of the Gettysburg Address, premiered January 2015 with Katelyn Bouska, piano, and the composer as speaker; and Fredericksburg, based on the Civil War battle of the same name, premiered November 2007 with baritone William Stone and the Temple University Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Alan Harler, part of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society’s 2007–08 concert series.

Stanford Thompson conducts the Play On, Philly! Symphony Orchestra; the speaker part will be performed by Douglass Mapp.

David Carpenter (composer)

David Carpenter’s music has been performed throughout the United States, including concerts at the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Brevard Music Center, and the International Double Reed Society at the University of Oklahoma. Vocal music being one of his primary interests, he has composed several works in this genre, including Fredericksburg, premiered by baritone William Stone and the Temple University Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra as part of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society’s 2007–08 season; and an opera based on the novel The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Selected scenes from this work were performed in New York City in November 2013. A recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship in 2010, Mr. Carpenter has also collaborated with the Momenta Quartet (New York, NY), who in 2008 premiered his String Quartet and featured it on their demo CD, and bassoon virtuoso Pascal Gallois, who premiered his Three Myths for Solo Bassoon in 2008. For the 2012-13 season, he was composer-in-residence with the Delaware County Symphony (Aston, PA), who premiered his orchestral work, The River in the Tree. Mr. Carpenter holds a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in composition from Temple University, where he studied with Maurice Wright. For more information, please visit

Douglas Mapp (speaker)

Bassist Douglas Mapp is at home in many styles of music ranging from classical to jazz and Broadway to contemporary classical. The list of artists that he has performed, recorded and toured with includes Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Donnie McClurkin, Richard Smallwood, Natalie Cole, Randy Brecker, Sean Jones, Ernie Watts, Lana Del Rey, R Kelly, and Jeff Majors. He is the principal bassist of the Reading Symphony and assistant principal of the Delaware Symphony. He performs regularly with some of the region’s premiere ensembles including the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Philly Pops and Harrisburg Symphony, and he has a twenty-year tenure with the Philadelphia-based new music ensemble Rela╠éche. He has performed as substitute bassist with The Philadelphia Orchestra both at home and on tour. His publishing company, Douglas Mapp Music, has been helping bassists to solve the age-old dilemma of solo versus orchestra tuning for over twenty years with piano parts written in keys that fit with standard orchestral tuning. He is president-elect of the International Society of Bassists and will chair the 2015 ISB convention at Colorado State University. Mr. Mapp is an associate professor of jazz studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ.

Play On, Philly!

Play On, Philly! (POP) is an innovative education and social initiative that provides opportunities for personal development to children through the study of music. Inspired by the social development and music education program of Venezuela called El Sistema, POP seeks to enrich the lives of Philadelphia youth by providing daily musical instruction in communities that have little access to music education.

Established in 2011 at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia, POP started with 110 youth, ages six to thirteen, with the goal of making a significant and sustaining impact on their lives. In 2012, POP established its second site at Freire Charter Middle School expanding its reach to 250 students. By expanding gradually, the program is able to stay flexible to curriculum adjustments and responsive to community needs. We strive to engage the entire community through partnerships, community events, and a season of thirty performances in venues across the Philadelphia region.

The mission of Play On, Philly! is to foster life skills among its participants by providing high- quality music education to children who would otherwise not receive it. For more information, please visit

The Mann

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts’ Education & Community Engagement Program is the region’s largest free education program, impacting more than 50,000 young people annually and more than 400,000 since 1997. The Mann’s Connecting Arts-N-Schools program offers city-wide schools a wide array of multicultural performances in music, theater and dance. This gives thousands of students the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and rhythms of live performances – often for the very first time.

As one of the most important outdoor music centers in the country, the Mann presents top artists in a world-class, entertainment destination in association with AEG Live. Each summer season, renowned symphony orchestras, iconic rock stars and the latest touring artists in indie rock, hip hop, R&B and pop take the stage here, and today’s success is a nod to the venue’s storied history. The Mann has been the summer home of The Philadelphia Orchestra since the 1930s and has presented critically acclaimed performers in every decade since then. Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the Mann hosts more than 170,000 visitors annually. Signature concert experiences are surrounded by Philadelphia’s stunning nighttime skyline and include seats beneath the Mann’s magnificent shed; picnics, blankets and music under the stars on its famous lawn; and dining in Crescendo, the venue’s spectacular tented restaurant. For more information, visit

“Hallelujahs of the Free,”by David Carpenter Saturday, May 2, 2015, 2:00 p.m.
Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church 419 S 6
th Street, Philadelphia, PA

Free admission

Play On, Philly! Symphony Orchestra Stanford Thompson, conductor Douglas Mapp, speaker

For more information:

David Carpenter
(267) 231-1705

Stanford Thompson, Play On, Philly! Founder and Artistic Director (215) 729-1863

Christine Reimert, for the Mann’s Liberty: Unplugged! Festival (610) 639-2136



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Research suggests that music education may positively effect academic achievement

Play On, Philly! students demonstrate higher levels of executive functions and  academic achievement

(Philadelphia, PA Sept. 23, 2014) Early results of an independent study indicate that students enrolled in Play On, Philly! (POP), the tuition-free after school intensive music program for children in underserved communities, exhibit better performance on tasks of executive functions, higher levels of academic achievement, and higher rates of school attendance than students not involved in the program. 

When compared to a control group of non-POP students at the same school, POP students:

·      Scored on average 10 points higher on standardized tests

·      Received higher grades in English and Language Arts and larger, more positive changes in math from the first to the third trimester

·      Scored higher on tests of Executive Functions

·      Had 30% fewer absences from school than non-POP students.

Play On, Philly! is based on the El Sistema model of music education that uses intensive music study to develop the whole child and push him to achieve more, take on challenges, and avoid the pitfalls often associated with poverty (over one-third of children in Philadelphia live below the poverty level).  Previous research has  shown that poverty is associated with lower executive functioning skills. 

Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that allow an individual to organize his thoughts towards the achievement of goals.  The three most-commonly cited components of executive functions are working memory, behavioral inhibition and selective attention.

According to Play On, Philly! Founder and Artistic Director, Stanford Thompson, the study was undertaken to document whether better performance on tasks of executive functions is associated with intensive music education (which highlights practice, goal setting, delayed gratification and self-control). The study, conducted by Dr. Steven Holochwost of WolfBrown, compares students in Play On, Philly!’s West Philadelphia site (St. Francis de Sales School) with a control group.  The study is on-going.

Over 250 students at two sites attend Play On, Philly! for 2-3 hours daily during the school year..  They receive instrumental group lessons as well as general music, choir and composition taught by some of the region’s most talented teaching artists.  All students participate in both large and small ensembles, perform frequently in the community, and benefit from lessons by world-class musicians including Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Maestro Sir Simon Rattle, Wynton Marsalis and Bobby McFerrin. POP also holds a full-day 5 week summer session.

These early results suggest that music education may mitigate the effects of risk on executive functions and academic achievement.  Nearly every program that works with children at risk claims ancillary benefits, but, few can substantiate these claims and fewer still can articulate how their programs may achieve these results.  In this respect, Play On, Philly! is unique, and why it is a leader in the field of El Sistema programs.

To learn more about Play On, Philly! visit  To learn more about the WolfBrown evaluation please contact Ilene Miller at, 215-875-4259 . For further information about WolfBrown visit

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Benton T. Fuller named Executive Director of Play On, Philly!

(Philadelphia, PA – June 12, 2014)  Stanford Thompson, Founder of Play On, Philly! (POP), the after school program that seeks to enrich the lives of Philadelphia youth by providing daily tuition-free musical instruction in underserved communities, announces the appointment of Benton T. Fuller as Executive Director.

POP has grown substantially since it’s founding by Mr. Thompson in 2011 and now serves over 200 children at two sites, has 9 full-time staff and 38 part-time teachers.  During daily 2 - 3 hour after school sessions, students take group instrumental lessons, as well as choir, general music and composition.  They also perform in both large and small ensembles, most recently under the baton of Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. 

Mr. Fuller is formerly Chief Operating Officer of Play On, Philly!  In his expanded role, he will manage the day-to-day operations of this growing organization.  Mr. Thompson will continue to further the artistic and programmatic direction of POP.

Mr. Fuller is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Both he and Mr. Thompson are graduates of the Sistema Fellows Program at New England Conservatory. Sistema Fellows is a 9-month professional training program for postgraduate musicians who wish to introduce El Sistema, the successful Venezuelan music education and social initiative, to North American communities.  Play On, Philly! is modeled on El Sistema.

For further information visit or contact Ilene Miller at

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Yannick  Nézet-Séguin to Conduct Play On, Philly! Students at St. Francis de Sales School and in Verizon Hall

The Philadelphia Orchestra Partners with Play On, Philly! for Third Consecutive Year  

(Philadelphia, April 11, 2014)—Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the acclaimed music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, rehearses with Play On, Philly! (POP) students at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 23, and then leads them in a performance on the stage of Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 25.

This is the third consecutive year that The Philadelphia Orchestra and Play On, Philly! have partnered in a performance at the top of an Orchestra subscription concert, but the first under the baton of Nézet-Séguin, who says, “We are committed to working with young musicians such as those in Play On, Philly! Our love and passion for music, for great music, is contagious.... I personally want to encourage their hard work and talent, and inspire them to persevere, enjoy making music, and live their dream.”

POP seeks to provide young Philadelphia students—who otherwise would not have the opportunity—access to a high-quality music education. The after-school program is inspired by the successful El Sistema music education system of Venezuela.  

Nézet-Séguin rehearses an excerpt from Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (A Little Night Music) with POP’s St. Francis de Sales Firebird String Orchestra at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia. The students later perform the piece at the top of the Orchestra’s Friday, April 25, concert, at 8 PM in Verizon Hall. POP’s performance will be followed by the Orchestra’s regularly scheduled subscription concert, a Mozart celebration featuring the composer’s Overture to Don Giovanni, Piano Concerto No. 20 with pianist Jan Lisiecki,  and Symphony No. 40.

The collaboration with POP continues the Orchestra’s community initiative The Fabulous Philadelphians Offstage—Philly Style!, which celebrates the wealth of musicianship in the Philadelphia region. This season the Orchestra has held a free Pop-Up concert; three of four scheduled PlayINs; a side-by-side rehearsal with two student orchestras; a Neighborhood Concert at Temple University; and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert at Girard College.

Founded in 2011 with 110 students at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia, Play On, Philly! is proving that music education can be a force for social change in Philadelphia. The POP philosophy is that shared musical experience promotes the academic, social, and developmental-skills necessary for future success. POP added a second site last year at Friere Charter Middle School in Center City, and now provides more than 200 students a tuition-free opportunity to master a standard orchestral instrument as well as instruction in choir, general music, composition, chamber music, and orchestra. Professional teaching artists from the Philadelphia region deliver music instruction during daily three-hour practice sessions, and students receive opportunities to publicly perform and be inspired by world-class artists.  

For further information visit or contact Ilene Miller at

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