Having now operated out of 4 schools throughout 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, now seeking to expand with new school partners, students work with our mentors once a week for for 8 weeks, as they write, record, and perform 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. Since then, we have continued to grow, serving close to 50 students in total and producing 8 albums of original student work. And while we could easily talk for hours (or pages) about our own love for AYA, to truly understand the impact of our program, we believe it is always 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

Like most things during the 2020 school year, AYA Project’s work was cut short by the COVID 19 pandemic. Sadly, student who began our program in January of last year were not able to visit the studio to record their songs, or enjoy their Album Release Parties. In 2021, we are hoping to re-establish our programming in a hybrid model, inviting students from several different schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding area to work with a mentor in a partially virtual setting, while also setting aside time and space for in-person meetings, including Studio Sessions. We know this will not be easy, but we do believe it is the safest option AND that it provides us an opportunity to expand our reach into more schools and work with more incredible young artists.

To support us or recommend a young person to work with us 2021, please contact [email protected], sign up for our email list, or click the DONATE button at the bottom of this page. Thank you! 

Reflections and plans for 2022

Reflections and plans for 2022

It's been a long 18 months since the last time we ran student programming. When we first shut things down to ensure the safety of our community in March 2020, we thought we'd be able to get things up and running again in a few months. Then a few months became a few...

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...