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 2020 school year, AYA Project is excited to continue working with our partners- YouthBuild Philadelphia and Girard College. This year, we are focusing on increasing opportunities for students to collaborate across schools and experience music outside of their respective school buildings. We’ll be bringing students from each school together every week to meet one another and hear each other’s work, which we also hope will lay a foundation for including even more students in the future. Finally, we’ve set aside budget for every student-mentor pair to have an “outside experience” of their choice, including concerts, open mics, or other related events. We are looking forward to another wonderful year!

Winter Reading List

Winter Reading List

Hi everyone- We hope that you are doing well and finding what you need to care for yourself during this time. As we enter an especially challenging Winter season, we are trying to spend some time reflecting on our work and what it means to us (and, hopefully, to...

On Freedom, Healing, and Learning

To Our AYA Friends and Family- We hope you all are well and finding what you need to both show up meaningfully and care for yourself during this time. The murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and George Floyd- the latest in the history of...

Reflections and Highlights from 2019

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...