Philly musician and educator selected to give prestigious TED Talk

Stanford Thompson, founder and executive director of Play On, Philly! gives lesson to the trumpet players during rehearsal after school at St. Francis de Sales School November 21, 2011. Thompson was chosen as TED fellow for 2017

Stanford Thompson, 30, founder of Play On, Philly!, an after-school music program in Philadelphia, is one of 15 TED Fellows for 2017.

The Curtis Institute of Music graduate — a trumpeter — will deliver a TED talk in April in Vancouver. He says his talk will center around "how ensemble music learning and performance is a powerful tool for social development in the lives of Philadelphia's most vulnerable children."

TED has played a key role in Thompson's thinking. When José Antonio Abreu, founder of the El Sistema music program in Venezuela, won the 2009 TED Prize, Thompson was all ears.

"It was his acceptance speech that I watched in my last semester at Curtis that convinced me to take a completely different path," said Thompson. The New England Conservatory teamed up with TED to launch the Abreu Fellows program the following fall.Thompson was accepted into the inaugural class in 2009, and traveled to Venezuela to observe the program first-hand.

The following spring he met Philadelphia philanthropist Carole Haas, and together they launched their El Sistema-inspired after-school music program at St. Francis de Sales in West Philadelphia, where she has long been involved, starting in the fall of 2010. "However, before Carole's involvement, our first donation was made from a TEDster of $30,000 and we have received support from the TED community ever since," he said.

"By being a TED Fellow, I will be able to follow up from Dr. Abreu's powerful TED talk with an example of how the El Sistema philosophy has successfully worked in this country through the work of Play On, Philly! I hope that our story resonates with the TED community and encourages them to help us take our next ambitious steps as an organization. As I shine a positive light on the optimism I have for Philadelphia's students, the arts community and the impact we are having on hundreds of students, I hope all that will hear my message at the conference — and later online — will join me in sustaining and growing our program."

Play On, Philly! currently has 250 students from poor sections of Philadelphia enrolled in three programs ranging from K-12. It operates at three sites: Freire Charter School at 11th and Market Sts., West Catholic Preparatory High School at 45th and Chestnut Sts., and St. Francis de Sales School at 47th St. and Baltimore Ave.

Founded in 2009, the TED Fellows program now has 414 Fellows from 87 countries whose talks by scientists, activists, doctors, artists and entrepreneurs have collectively been viewed more than 145 million times.