Below is our Executive Director’s poignant message to the School Reform Commission of Philadelphia:
My name is Joseph Conyers, and I am the assistant principal double bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I also serve as executive director of the nonprofit Project 440 — an organization dedicated to teaching young musicians the importance of service through music. As I write this letter to you, I’m currently aboard an airplane with the Philadelphia Orchestra as we embark on our second China residency / tour. While I was present in support of Don Liuzzi of the Philadelphia Orchestra at your last public meeting earlier this month, my travels inhibit me from speaking on May 30th at your next meeting. Please know that although I cannot attend the meeting in person, I stand in solidarity with my colleagues in music who are speaking before you about a matter that affects the lives of thousands of young people in Philadelphia.
I write to you expressing my own disapointment in the proposed budget cuts for the Philadelphia Public School System — specifically those cuts affecting music programs. I understand that during difficult times, difficult decisions have to be made. Difficult decisions are one thing — your proposed cuts to music programs would be catastrophic for many young Philadelphia musicians for a myriad of reasons.
Last week, Project 440 hosted a seminar for the musicians of the Philadelphia All-City Orchestra. In that seminar I raised the question: “Why do you love music?” I received a number of different answers ranging from “Music allows me to express myself,” to “Music connects me to other people.” However, the answer that resonated with me the most was this one:
“Music is there for me when people are not.”
In an age where it seems so much is taken away from our communities and from our young people, your decision to effectively decimate the music programs in Philadelphia Public Schools would take away one of the few things left that give our young people hope. When the world looks to be putting up road blocks in every direction young people turn, music gives them the chance to dream and imagine beyond those barriers. Music gives young people the chance to collaborate with others in being creative. Creativity engenders a sense of ownership which in effect garners a sense of pride. By making the cuts towards music that have been proposed, you are inherantly denying our young people their right to humanity.
The stories of people who have been affected by music in a positive way are too numerous to list here — even among my colleagues in the orchestra. In light of your proposed budget, what do you tell a child who seems to have difficulty progressing in school, when music is the sole source of discipline and confidence for continued progress? What do you tell a child whose world is so bleak that “street life” looks to be the only means for success? What do you tell a child when everyone else has given up on him/her, but their music lessons are the only thing that make him/her feel good about him/herself? Do you say, “Too bad?” Members of the School Reform Commission, your proposed budget — one that would strip away the lifeblood of so many students — is unacceptable.
I am a relatively young African-American male from Savannah, GA. If left to statistics, I am not supposed to be where I am today. I was not supposed to get into one of the top music conservatories in the world (The Curtis Institute of Music) only to become assistant principal bass of one of the greatest orchestras in the world. I am where I am because as a child, my mother dared to dream, and with very limited resources around her maintained that music would play an integral role in each of her children’s lives. I was also blessed to have an amazing support system and community that encouraged me as I grew up. What gave me my drive and perseverance? It was my love of the music. Music would not let me accept the status quo but instead gave me an appreciation and the desire for excellence. Music gave me the determination to be the best I could at whatever I did regardless of the profession I chose.
Just by flipping on the television or reading the newspaper, it seems the the streets of Philadelphia are becoming increasingly violent. Agreeing to your proposed budget cuts makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy. This does not have to be the case. If the funds are not here in Philadelphia, then we must find them elsewhere. This is the largest city in the state, and we cannot afford to abandon our young people at a time when they need us the most. What would that say about our city? What would it say about our city’s future?
Despite your proposal cuts, and despite the doom and gloom over the Philadelphia School District, there exists in Philadelphia a tremendous opportunity for our community and for our young people — especially through music. Philadelphia is a town steeped in musical tradition. I’ve been back in Philadelphia for almost three years now, and I’m not only committed, I’m energized by how music can be used as a tool to transform our city. Solutions will not come from any one organization or any one initiative. It will take collaboration and cooperation by all of us to give our children the education they deserve. If you need the help of the Philadelphia Orchestra, call us. And if the orchestra doesn’t respond, as a member of the education committee, you can call me personally. I refuse to sit idle and watch what is being proposed be realized in my community. You should refuse as well.
“Music is there, when people are not,” is what the young lady stated at our seminar. Let us not abandon these youths when they need us most. Let us be there for the them — holding their hands and supporting them in any way we can. Dare to dream; allow our children dream. Our city deserves it, and most importantly, our young people deserve it.
Assistant Principal Bass, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Executive Director, Project 440
Earlier this month, Joseph Conyers was interviewed by Jason Morgan for a profile piece on LocalArtsLive of Philadelphia. Click on the picture below to read the first part of his interview.
“This was awesome. Thanks.”
“[The seminar] really gave me insight on how I could incorporate music into my everyday life.”
“The college / career information made me consider music as a possibility again.”
These are just a few of the numerous comments Project 440 receive from participants of our High School Seminar with members of Philadelphia’s All-City Orchestra held yesterday at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Did the students really enjoy the course? Would they recommend the Project 440 High School Seminars to their friends? The answer: a resounding yes! 100% of the students in attendance said they would do just that.
After sitting in on a rehearsal by the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, participants were ushered upstairs where they were served lunch. Executive Director, Joseph Conyers, greeted all the students and then quickly followed with many insightful comments on the” ins and outs” of college life. Stanford Thompson gave an inspirational lecture on the possibilities through music. And Mary Javian, had participants marching around the room to a Mozart String Quartet – making it something any young child could relate to.
Pictures of the event will be posted in the coming weeks.
Project 440 motivated these young people to become ambassadors for music. Students were so inspired that their work with Project 440 is far from finished. We are currently looking for opportunities for participating quartets in the seminar (the CAPA and GAMP Quartets) to be able to practice some of their new community engagement techniques in local schools to inspire other young people. Now empowered with the tools to serve, we received numerous inquiries from many students with groups of their own on how they might be able to perform in various communities / schools. We educated, we encouraged, and we empowered these young people through music: Mission Accomplished!
Special thanks to Don Liuzzi, director of the All-City orchestra, for helping to make this seminar a reality. And another huge thanks to our General Manager, Blake Espy, for helping to put this all together!
Interested in our program? Learn more by clicking here.
Dubbed the UK’s favorite classical music station, Classic FM interviews Project 440 Director, Joseph Conyers, in their “From The Back Desk” series profiling musicians from orchestras all across the world! Congrats, Joseph!
Click on his picture to read the article.
Many thanks to the Philadelphia Orchestra for opening Tuesday morning’s rehearsal with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin to the All-City Orchestra participants in Project 440′s High School Seminar. Students will get to see the Fabulous Philadelphians in action before working with the Project 440 presenters in the afternoon. Thank you Philadelphia Orchestra for helping to make the day seminar participants will not soon forget!
Thanks to generous gifts from David and Linda Glickstein, Carole Haas-Gravagno, and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, as well as the leadership of Don Liuzzi and the dedicated staff of the Project 440 team, Project 440 (P440) is thrilled to be able to present our High School Seminar (HSS) to the students of the Philadelphia’s All-City Orchestra.
The seminar will take place on Tuesday, May 21st at 1 PM in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and will be lead by an all-star team: Joseph Conyers, Project 440 Director, Mary Javian, Project 440 Director of Programming, and Stanford Thompson, P440 HSS Clinician. The seminar is open only to those currently enrolled in All-City Orchestra.
The P440 HSS is designed to teach high school musicians to use their own musical gifts to enhance the lives of others. Courses presented are:
• Colleges and the Audition Process
• Entrepreneurship & Networking
• Community Engagement & Interactive Performance.
After receiving training from P440 HSS Clinicians, students are charged with presenting a community engagement performance anywhere in their own community. The goal of the program is to highlight the array of career paths for a young, burgeoning musician and to ignite an early appreciation for community engagement and educational outreach.
The seminar will be presented free of charge, and all participating students will receive Project 440’s Young Musician’s Survival Kit.
“The students of All-City Orchestra are a talented and inspiring group of students,” says Project 440 Director, Joseph Conyers. “We know that after our program, All-City students will leave with a heightened awareness of the possibilities in classical music and feel empowered to serve others with their instruments in hand.”
For more information about Project 440 and / or our High School Seminar, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Inside “Prayers of Rain and Wind” with John B Hedges and Joseph Conyers
The full article can be found here.
Executive Director, Joseph Conyers, will be performing with the Richmond Symphony this weekend (February 16-17). The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote up a wonderful article on the performances with a fantastic plug for Project440!!!!
Anne Timberlake from the Times-Dispatch writes, “When he’s not following a conductor’s baton, Conyers teaches at Temple and runs his own music education nonprofit organization, Project 440.
In his nonprofit work especially, he’s a classical music missionary.
“I get to teach young people how powerful they are. That even at a young age they can be holding a violin or holding a trumpet or holding a tuba and be leaders.”
Music, he says, builds cognitive skills, communication, entrepreneurship — and community.
In his own work and in other programs that introduce children to classical music, “you can literally see this happening, it’s bringing families together. Now you’ve added this value to music so that it’s not just something you come to the hall for, but something that’s actually changing the fabric of society.”
The full article can be found here.
Project 440 in partnership with Live Oak Public Libraries and the Savannah Music Festival is pleased to host Philadelphia’s ensemble39 in a week full of community engagement and residency activities. Live Oak Public Libraries will host members of the ensemble in eight (8) different branches across the region. Please see a listing of the libraries below. In addition, as part of the Savannah Music Festival’s community engagement efforts, the ensemble will give host residencies and performances at both Garrison School of Visual and Performing Arts and the Savannah Arts Academy. Joseph Conyers, executive director, and Peggy Curchack, chief operating officer, will accompany the ensemble during their visit. Special thanks goes to Live Oak Public Libraries and the Savannah Music Festival for making this all possible.
ensemble39, made up of some of the most notable musicians of their generation, is dedicated to expanding the audiences of classical music through innovative methods of presentation, collaboration, and programming. The group’s unorthodox instrumentation, inspired by Prokofiev’s Quintet, Op. 39 for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, and bass, allows flexibility of instrumentation and repertoire. Equally comfortable in standard and new works, as well as traditional and unusual venues, ensemble39′s program-driven concerts appeal to long-time classical music supporters as well as those newest to the form. Founded in spring 2011 by a group of musicians at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, ensemble39 shares a common energy and passion for chamber music and performance at the highest level.
The ensemble will be present as two different groups in the libraries:
- An oboe quartet (oboe, violin, viola, cello): Making Music: It’s about the team! Learn the importance of working together to get the very best results in anything that you do – including music making!
- A trio (clarinet, viola, bass): Music Through the Ages! Take an exciting journey through time and evolution of classical music from its origins to now.
Here is a list of the library performances:
Tuesday, March 20
10:30 a.m. – Bull Street Library
12:30 p.m. – West Broad Library
Wednesday, March 21
10 a.m. – Hinesville Library
Thursday, March 22
10:30 a.m. – Springfield Library
12:30 p.m. – Thunderbolt Library
4 p.m. – Islands Library
6 p.m. – Southwest Chatham Library
For more details about library locations, click here.
We are SO thrilled to be working with this talented group of musicians, and we hope you will stop by a Live Oak Public Library near you to see the ensemble in action. Both Project 440 and ensemble39 are on Facebook. Find us, and “like” us to learn more or just to find out the latest about our travels.
We look forward to seeing YOU soon!