Play On Philly Wins Marian Anderson Award

Founded in 2011 on the El Sistema method of using music training as part of holistic education, Play On Philly offers free music lessons to students, often from low-income communities with little exposure to formal music training. . Play On’s teaching artists teach children every day for two hours, in five locations around the city.

The last Marian Anderson Award was given in 2019 to the group Kool and the Gang. Due to the pandemic, it has been canceled for the past two years. Since then, the organization has seen leadership changes: longtime executive director Patrick Moran retired and board chair Nina Tinari resigned.

It created an “inflection point” for the organization, said Gregory Murphy, who stepped in as interim director while the group did some soul-searching.

The organization of the Marian Anderson Prize mainly focused on two things: the organization of the gala and the distribution of its profits. Murphy admitted that these were not year-round activities and that another organization with more frequent programming could do the job more efficiently.

Murphy said it was time to consolidate resources.

“There are a lot of nonprofits, many of which have similar missions and do very similar things with two separate budgets,” he said.

As the Marian Anderson Prize considered its future, Thompson watched as a board member and suggested that her organization might take over the prize. Murphy said the Marian Anderson Prize consulted with living descendants of Marian Anderson when making her decision to disband.

“We consulted several organizations. We didn’t just watch Play On Philly,” Murphy said. “He was the one who best fit the mission of the Marian Anderson Prize, and was ready to not only continue the mission, but to ensure that the Marian Anderson Prize continues to exist.”

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