East Falls Now - Using Music to Train Entrepreneurs


by John T. Gillespie

Just as Chopin captivated 19th Century Paris salons with his virtuosity on the piano, so the young musicians of Project 440 captured the hearts and minds of Henry and Kathy Donner’s guests with Beethoven’s obeo trio.

But Beethoven, inspiring and critically performed as he was, was not the focus of a Sunday afternoon in April in the Donners’ living room on Apologen Rd. Music, the discipline with the power to inspire and train men and women for productive lives, was.

Project 440 stands for 440 Hz, or middle A on the musical scale, the note musicians use to tune their instruments. In this case it could also stand for music’s importance in life.

Joseph Conyers, bass for the Philadelphia Orchestra and founder and executive director of Project 440, says the program treats music as a means, not an end, to a successful life. “Project 440,” he says, “fosters musicians’ passion and helps them build skills to amplify their future success.”

With students drawn from the city’s leading public high schools—Masterman, Centra, Girard, Northeast High, the High School for the Create and Performing Arts, Benjamin Rush and the All City Orchestra—the project has a ready pooled potential members.

The project offers two after-school options. Doing Good teaches young people the ins and outs of social entrepreneurship, leaderships, and community service. Instruments for Success focuses on college and career preparedness—all through the lens of music.


Claire, a Project 440 student, said that “Participating in Project 440’s Doing Good allows me to do just that: good. Being part of this organization also has allowed me to learn new entrepreneurship skills and meet new people with a similar goal. The things I was able to learn in this class will stick with me throughout my future endeavors.”

The Donners have become cultural mavens in the neighborhood. They hosted a recent musicale at Germantown Friends School and invited City Councilman and realtor Allan Domb to their home for a political tutorial on taxes and city government.

Henry Donner is a member of the board of Project 440 and a fervent admirer of the organization and its founder.

“Anyone who has met the Orchestra’s Joseph Conyers recognizes he is a force of nature—bright, articulate, thoughtful, engaging, an accomplished classical musician with impactful social purpose realized in a non-for-profit organization he created.

“Project 440, through its two flagship programs, Doing Good and Instruments for Success, teaches high school students from across Philadelphia about social entrepreneurship, community service, and college and career preparedness—all through the lens of music.”

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Transcribed from East Falls Now, John T. Gillespie.