Now operating out of three High Schools in North Philadelphia, our aim and our process are simple.

  • Give students a platform to build their voice and share their stories through the process of songwriting, recording, and performing.
  • Connect these young artists 1-on-1 to an experienced local artist mentor from the Philadelphia music scene.

In our after-school program, students work with mentors for 8 weeks, as they write and record their own music, often for the first time. As one 10th Grade participant put it:

“I like the fact that we get to do our music and use our talent in our way. And not, in any other way or how anybody wants it. We get do it freely how WE want to do it.”

What is produced from these sessions are our AYA Project Albums, featuring the original songs of each student, along with original titles and artwork also developed by mentors and students. Our first album, featuring six students from Kensington CAPA High School, was released in 2016 and set the stage for our program to double in size, serving 12 students at two different schools in 2017. And while we could easily talk for hours (or pages) about our own love for AYA, to truly understand the impact of our program, it is best to hear it from the students themselves:

Build Confidence

“I didn’t really think of myself as writing music. I thought I couldn’t, I really did, I really thought I couldn’t write music. And then...with the confidence, (my mentor) made me kind of think like, ‘Oh, maybe I could be this if I really push myself to be like this.’”


Build Creativity

“The thing I like about songwriting is how you get to express all of the things that you can’t express in real life. Like, when you’re in reality, you can’t…sometimes you don’t want to say something to a person where it’s just like “Wow like, that’s how they really feel about me?” but when in music you don’t know who you’re talking about.”


Build Community

“It was like this. It was too quick bro. I played something and he was like ‘ got it. You got it.’ He gave me this crazy advice, because he do poetry too. He was like ‘put your poetry into your rap.’ And I thought damn, maybe if I do, it’ll make me say way more or make you think way more about what I’m doing. And that’s what influenced that.”


Where to From Here

In the 2018-2019 school year, AYA Project is excited to continue working in our three North Philadelphia partner schools- YouthBuild Philadelphia, Kensington CAPA, and Olney Charter High. However, rather than focus on getting bigger, our focus this year is on getting better. To that end, we’ll be adding more studio time for every student, and changing the way we prepare both students and mentors to make their time together even more valuable. While we’d love to bring this program to more and more young artists every year, we also believe that we need to things right and provide every young person with the incredible experience they deserve. Thank you for your support, and looking forward to a great year!

Reflections and Highlights from 2019

This year, 13 amazing artists stepped into the studio to record songs for our two albums with YouthBuild Philadelphia and Girard College. While there were countless moments throughout the year that were meaningful to us, we wanted to share just a few memories here...

Musical Legacies

Last week, we had the pleasure of working alongside a wonderful organization- the Smithsonian Latino Center- for ¡Descubra! : an event celebrating the power and beauty of Latina artists past and present. When two alumni of our program, Madeline Danielle and Veronica...

2018 New Music Is Here!!

Over the last two months, we've been hard at work to finalize, mix, master, press, and finally CELEBRATE THE RELEASE of our 2018 AYA Albums from YouthBuild Philadelphia, Kensington CAPA, and Olney Charter High. We are happy to say that all of this amazing new music is...