Local music education program receives $1 million donation from MacKenzie Scott

Play On Philly, a local music education initiative, is one of 286 organizations to recently receive a financial donation from philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott.

The youth music program received a $1 million donation that the organization said it will use to expand opportunities for more Philadelphia students to participate.

“[The gift] comes at a pivotal time as we enter a new decade of transformative music education for students this fall,” Play On Philly said in a statement. Scott and his team’s decision to spotlight so many arts and equity organizations speaks to his belief in the power of the arts to change our social and systemic issues. With this gift, our staff and Board of Directors will invest in Play On Philly students and future growth, allowing us to serve more students in the Philadelphia area. »

Play On Philly provides free daily music education to K-12 students in underserved communities across the city. Students enrolled in the program receive two hours of free instrument instruction and ensemble practice daily.

The program was launched in 2011 with 110 children ages 6 to 13 at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philly. Play On Philly established a second site at Freire Charter Middle School in the city center when the initiative expanded to 250 participants.

The organization now has four locations across the city, having added Independence Charter School West in Southwest Philadelphia and Roman Catholic High School in downtown Philadelphia to the program. Play On Philly currently serves 350 students across the city.

The initiative also aims to develop life skills, academic achievement and social progress through its music education. The organization has found that participating students score ten points higher than their peers on standardized tests and have improved behavioral and study skills.

Among the programs offered to students by Play On Philly are the following.

A six-week, full-day summer music camp for aspiring juniors through seniors at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance
• The Play On Philly Symphony Orchestra for middle and high school students who wish to take part in intensive musical training. The ensemble offers numerous performances throughout the region each year.
• The emerging artists’ collective for students who wish to take private lessons and who wish to explore a career in music. Students must be nominated and audition to enter PEAC.

Scott, who was once married to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, wrote this week that she and husband Dan Jewett have donated more than $2.7 billion to 286 organizations “in categories and communities that have historically been underfunded and neglected”.

Jewett was previously a chemistry teacher at Harriton High School in Bryn Mawr from 2002 to 2011, according to 6ABC.

Scott said she, Jewett, and a team of researchers, advisors, and administrators spent the first quarter of 2021 “identifying and evaluating equity-focused nonprofit teams working in areas that have been overlooked”.

Gifts were prioritized to organizations that worked at the grassroots level, had leaders of color, and supported community engagement and the empowerment of women and girls.

Arts and cultural institutions like Play On Philly caught the attention of Scott and Jewett in this recent round of funding.

“Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving educational outcomes, reducing crime rates and improving mental health, so we evaluated small arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from cultures of wealthy regions and identity groups that donors often overlook,” Scott wrote.

Scott and Jewett have also donated to colleges and universities that educate students from underserved communities and organizations that “bridge gaps through interfaith support and collaboration.”

Gift recipients were encouraged to spend the funding as they see fit “because we believe experienced teams on the front lines of challenges will be better at using the money,” Scott wrote.

“There’s nothing new about amplifying donations by giving up control,” she continued. “People have been doing this in living rooms, classrooms and workplaces for thousands of years. It makes recipients feel valued and unlocks their best solutions. Generosity is generative. Sharing does more. “

Last December, Scott donated more than $4 billion to 384 organizations across the country in an effort to provide support for those suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lincoln University, the Chester County-based HBCU, received a $20 million donation from Scott, the largest single donor in the school’s 167-year history.

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the Greater Philadelphia YMCA and Easterseals Southeastern Pennsylvania also received donations from Scott last December.

Organizations selected to receive financial donations at the end of 2020 were identified as those working in communities facing high levels of food insecurity, racial inequality and poverty rates, as well as limited access to donations.

Food banks, emergency relief funds, civil rights groups and educational institutions were among the many organizations to receive a donation from Scott at the time.

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