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Carnegie Hall Selects Music Education Programs at
Columbus Symphony Orchestra, El Paso Symphony Orchestra, and
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra for Support in PlayUSA’s First Year

PlayUSA Designed to Boost Instrumental Music Instruction
for Underserved K-12 Students Nationwide;
Part of WMI’s Growing Programs Supporting Students and Organizations Across the U.S.

PlayUSACarnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute (WMI) today announced the creation of PlayUSA, a new pilot program that will provide grants and programmatic support to a range of instrumental music education projects across the United States, all specifically designed to reach low-income and underserved students on a local level. For its pilot year, Carnegie Hall has selected projects from three orchestras for its PlayUSA program: the Columbus All City Orchestra from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (Columbus, OH); the Tocando After School Music Program from the El Paso Symphony Orchestra (El Paso, TX); and Music for Life from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (New Orleans, LA).

“In launching PlayUSA, WMI is partnering with organizations that are helping to address the need for more high-quality instrumental music instruction, serving students who normally do not have access to it,” said Sarah Johnson, Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. “The three projects and organizations selected by Carnegie Hall for the program’s first year—each in their own way—are focused on providing sustained training and music education opportunities to a diverse group of talented and motivated students, placing musical instruments in the hands of young people with limited access. Through PlayUSA, we not only want to support each program, but perhaps equally as important, create a robust community of organizations across the country focused on this work, so we can learn from one another and make note of successes and milestones achieved in each PlayUSA location that can be shared across the field.”

PlayUSA provides support for new and expanded programs, all working on a local level. The program includes consultation with Carnegie Hall staff to help problem-solve, address challenges, and build on best practices in the music education field. It also provides training and professional development for teachers utilizing both online and in-person resources. PlayUSA grants (totaling $100,000 in this pilot year) may be used by each selected organization to underwrite teaching fees for music instruction; purchase or rental of musical instruments as well as instrumental repair; and other associated programmatic costs. Like other WMI national music education initiatives, a key program component will be an annual convening of representatives from PlayUSA organizations, creating an opportunity for shared learning among participants and with others in the field.

For this pilot year, Carnegie Hall invited orchestras across the country that already partner with the Weill Music Institute on its Link Up music education program for grades 3-5 to apply for a PlayUSA grant. (It is anticipated that future years of this program will be opened to a wider constituency of partners.) PlayUSA is part of a growing portfolio of WMI programs reaching students and teachers across the US. WMI’s Link Up program reaches approximately 350,000 students and teachers around the world through more than 80 partner orchestras. WMI’s Musical Explorers for grades K-2 now reaches 19,000 kids in New York City and at four national partner sites.

PlayUSA also complements recently-launched WMI initiatives like NYO2, an expansion of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA (NYO-USA) program. Beginning in 2016, this intensive two-week summer program, run in conjunction with NYO-USA, will serve young American instrumentalists, ages 14-17, supporting greater diversity within the classical orchestral field with a particular focus on attracting talented students who have not had access to highly selective training opportunities via major youth orchestra programs, summer festivals and camps, or similar experiences outside their own communities.

PlayUSA is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Fund II Foundation, which is dedicated to music education, advancing social change, creating possibilities, promoting respect and protection of the environment, and preserving American culture by funding opportunities for minority and other vulnerable populations. The Fund II grant also supports further expansion of WMI’s Link Up program, helping Carnegie Hall to reach five million young people nationwide over the next decade.

About the PlayUSA Grantees

Columbus All City Orchestra (Columbus, OH)
The Columbus All City Orchestra (CACO) is the result of a long-term partnership between the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Columbus City Schools, the primary school district served by the orchestra. The CACO program was created to offer students in this district a deeper music instruction experience than most of their schools can provide. Each year, approximately 40 to 50 students in grades 9-12 are selected to participate in the CACO through seating auditions, which are judged by professional musicians and educators. The students receive in-depth musical training, performance experience, and mentoring from professional conductors and musicians, helping them to develop new musical skills, professionalism, and confidence.

Funding from PlayUSA will allow the CSO to expand access to sustained, high-quality music instruction for underserved students in Columbus, with a pilot program that will offer private lessons with Columbus Symphony Orchestra musicians. Selected CACO students will be paired with a CSO musician who will provide private lessons and mentoring throughout the school year. The expanded program will also include rented instruments made available to students, CSO musicians mentoring orchestra and band classes, free tickets for students in the district to all 2015-2016 CSO concerts, as well as professional development for teachers and engagement with parents and guardians.

Tocando After School Music Program (El Paso, TX)
Now in its third season, the Tocando After School Music Program is the most recent education and outreach program of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by Venezuela’s highly successful El Sistema program, Tocando (“to play”) is designed to engage disconnected youth at elementary schools through intensive music instruction, academic tutoring, and nutritional snacks. Students are provided with the use of free instruments and are exposed to positive adult role models. They are given opportunities to perform within the community. The intention of Tocando is to empower children to improve their sense of community and opportunity through immersive music learning and performing. Tocando uses music education as a vehicle for children to acquire valuable tools of teamwork, self-confidence, leadership, and academic success.

Funding from PlayUSA will support the expansion of Tocando to a second location in El Paso, and provide for teaching artists and professional development.

Music for Life (New Orleans, LA)
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO)—the only full-time professional orchestra in Louisiana and the country’s only full-time musician-governed orchestra—presents Music for Life, which offers disadvantaged youth the opportunity to study music intensively throughout the year in private and small-group settings with both LPO musicians and peers from the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestras. Now entering its third year, Music for Life provides youth in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans with an outlet for creative expression, increasing the number of music-oriented out-of-school activities available to them and supporting positive in-school performance, both academic and behavioral. All program components, including instruments, supplies, tickets to LPO Family Concerts, transportation, and meals are provided at no cost to participants.

Funding from PlayUSA will support professional development, teaching and performance fees for artist mentors, instruments for new students, instrument repair and service, music stands and books, and other program costs.

About Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute
Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute (WMI) creates visionary programs that embody Carnegie Hall’s commitment to music education, playing a central role in fulfilling the Hall’s mission of making great music accessible to as many people as possible. With unparalleled access to the world’s greatest artists, WMI’s programs are designed to inspire audiences of all ages, nurture tomorrow’s musical talent, and harness the power of music to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. An integral part of Carnegie Hall’s concert season, these programs facilitate creative expression, develop musical skills and capacities at all levels, and encourage participants to make lifelong personal connections to music. The Weill Music Institute generates new knowledge through original research and is committed to giving back to its community and the field, sharing an extensive range of online music education resources and program materials for free with teachers, orchestras, arts organizations, and music lovers worldwide. Nearly 500,000 people each year engage in WMI’s programs through national and international partnerships, in New York City schools and community settings, and at Carnegie Hall. For more information, visit

Image at top of release courtesy of El Paso Symphony Orchestra



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