To find the next generation of talent, a coalition of organizations in Philadelphia devoted to classical music education has been given $2.5 million.

Collectively, they will weave a city-wide net to catch undiscovered players. 

Ten organizations in the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) Artists' Initiative will split the grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, to identify and nurture promising students throughout the city who may not have the resources to pursue a career in classical music.


"We really believe that the future of classical music needs to reflect our cities, the diversity of our cities, and really embrace that diversity," said Helen Eaton, CEO of Settlement Music School. She says she knows of no other collective initiative like this in the country.

The ten organizations participating in the initiative are the Philadelphia Orchestra, Temple University's Music Preparatory Division, Musicopia, the Philadelphia Sinfonia Association, the Primavera Fund, Play On! Philly, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Project 440, the school district, and Settlement.

A trio of woodwinds performed by high school students in City Hall at the announcement of the initiative. Marquise Bradley, David Heister, and Malinda Voell, the accomplished flutist, basoonist, and clarinetist in 10th and 11th grades met while performing in various youth orchestras in the city, and decided to make a go of it as their own trio.

They are among the 75 musicians in grades four through eleven hand-picked by boots-on-the-ground music advocates scouting the city's public schools. Once in the program, students receive ongoing music training and career guidance through their elementary and high school careers.

Joseph Conyers, principle bass player with the Philadelphia Orchestra, is is already deeply involved in music education. As artistic director of Philadelphia All-City Orchestra and the founder of Project 440 — a classical music preparatory program — he says the Artists' Initiative will offer life lessons to prepare musicians for the classical music profession.

"You could have all the talent in the world, but if you don't have great executive function or don't know how to communicate, you may not get very far," he said.