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Exploring the ArtsYannick| Play on Philly | Kenny Gamble


Yannick| Play on Philly | Kenny Gamble


Yannick Nezet-Seguin is a charismatic, young conductor who is helping to rejuvenate the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra. Find out how he got where he is today, and how he’s working to bring new experiences to enthusiastic audiences.

Play On Philly

Play On, Philly! (POP) is a music education program designed to reach at-risk children in Philadelphia. The children in the program discover how to play beautiful music, but their learning goes far beyond notes on a page. Stanford Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of POP, joins Suzanne to discuss this life-changing program.

Thompson grew up as part of a big family in Atlanta, Georgia. His parents were both professional musicians and music educators, and when Thompson was eight, he began playing the trumpet. Eventually, he moved to Philadelphia to study at the Curtis Institute of Music. Some time later, while visiting Venezuela, Thompson learned of a local music program for at-risk youth called “El Sistema.” Inspired by the initiative, he decided to implement a similar program in Philadelphia and name it, “Play On, Philly!” 

The POP afterschool program teaches children how to play any standard orchestral instrument from scratch! They participate in group lessons, music literacy classes, and even participate in ensemble performances. POP is funded by private donors, foundations, and some corporations. Currently, they have almost thirty professional music teachers and five staff members. The students perform nearly forty concerts a year, and most enter with absolutely no musical background. Compared to the children involved in sports and afterschool tutoring programs, POP students are scoring higher on exams, attending school more often, and having fewer disciplinary problems. Thompson explains that it is vital for programs like POP to exist in order to give at-risk children hopes and dreams for the future. POP programs are currently officered at the Freire Charter School and St. Francis DeSales. Stanford hopes to spread the program to additional Philadelphia schools, and inspire more children to explore and develop their talents.

Kenny Gamble

Kenny Gamble is a legendary song-writer and producer, who’s produced countless hits with groups such as The Jacksons, Dusty Springfield and The O’Jays. He is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of Philadelphia International Records. These days, many people refer to Gamble as an “urban pioneer” due to his work in improving Philadelphia communities. During Suzanne’s conversation with Gamble, he discusses how he brought “Philly Sound” to the world and how he’s bringing Philadelphia neighborhoods back to life. 

Kenny Gamble went to West Philadelphia High School, where he sang in many different musical groups. Gamble says that when he was younger, he always wanted to be part of a band. Eventually, he found a partner in Leon Huff and created the group “MFSB,” which stands for Mother Father Sister Brother. A bit later, in the sixties, he was part of a harmony group called “Kenny Gamble and The Romeos.” Gamble explains that his iconic “Philly Sound” is a combination of his many urban influences, which included jazz, blues, and funky gospel music. 

Throughout their musical partnership, Gamble and his piano-playing partner, Leon Huff, produced a long string of commercial hits including: “Silly, Silly Fool” by Dusty Springfield, “Enjoy Yourself” by The Jacksons and “Love Train” by The O’Jays.  The music they produced often involved the common themes of love, unity, and looking on the bright side of life. Eventually, Gamble began a campaign based on the song “Let’s Clean up the Ghetto,” which helped to clean up neighborhoods, make education more widely accessible, and bolster real-estate development in Philadelphia. This ultimately led Gamble to create Universal Companies, an organization that continues to help build up struggling urban communities and improve the lives of their inhabitants.

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