Music makes the heart grow stronger… Or at least the the brain. At a time when public school systems nationwide are cutting extra-curricular programs like music education, Play On, Philly! (POP) recognizes the importance of music in classrooms and in the community. As one of the many applicants that 99designs receives and reviews every month through the 99nonprofits program—seeking to help nonprofits with their graphic design needs—Play On, Philly! stood out because they go beyond rudimentary lessons by engaging youth in a way that fosters love of art and heritage.

Play On Philly flute
via Play on, Philly!

The benefits of music education are many. Students who study music score higher on standardized tests and develop strong language skills earlier than students who don’t. Music education also fosters critical thinking skills, increases self-esteem and engages students in their overall school performance. Play On, Philly! has made it their duty to provide after-school music education to nearly 300 underserved youth in Philadelphia. Students who, without the enrichment of music, potentially risk performing below at-level in math and reading and could even risk lower graduation rates. Through POP, at-risk students are getting the chance to develop into their full potential.

When Zebadiah began playing music with POP four years ago he was a shy youngster that lacked confidence—feeling as if he was unliked by others and that he possessed no special talents of his own. But in 4 years, he has come to embody POP’s mission of education through music stewardship. “He was awarded a scholarship by the Primavera Fund, is the principal viola with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and will be attending Temple University as a music education major in the fall.”

Play On Philly strings
via Play on, Philly!

Playing with design

by suseno for Play on, Philly!

When Play On, Philly! sought design work from 99designs, they were in need of a polished logo as well as a website that would communicate their goal to provide the best musical instruction to youth in their community. They launched a Logo & Hosted Website Contest for their needs and received over 50 entries! One stand-out logo design quickly emerged as the winner: A vibrant design that showcased the city skyline behind a young trumpeter’s silhouette, combining the notion of education through community and individual. Then the website portion of their contest prompted valuable feedback about what information would most benefit site visitors, as well as provided POP with the space to expand on that information through program details and student narratives: The logo clarified their identity, and the site relayed their story to the public.

We’re immensely proud that Play On, Philly!’s mission has flourished through design and through the power of the web. Their important work deserves significant outreach so students like Zebadiah can continue to benefit from the training that music affords, as well as from the culture and environment that POP bestows, a “haven of safety, fun, joy and friendship” that may have not have otherwise flourished. Students enter the program and quickly learn that the music is not just for education’s sake, but is a voyage to comradery, growth and personal fortitude. So to all the POP stars out there: Never stop playing!