About Aspiring Young Artists

What we do…

The Aspiring Young Artists Project is supporting the next generation of great Philadelphia music.  We work with musically gifted students in Philadelphia High Schools, matching them 1-on-1 with established artists and songwriters. Through weekly sessions held on-site, after school, our mentors coach and support students through the process of writing, arranging, and recording their own original song. Finally, after nearly two months of crafting and perfecting their compositions, students visit a local studio and, together, record the first album of their young careers.

Why we do it…

The AYA Project is based on three simple, research-proven principles that give meaning to our work:

1. Music matters…

For the young people involved in our program, music is more than just a hobby- it’s a career ambition, a culture, and a soundtrack to their daily lives. And while young people who are exposed to high quality music instruction show a variety of positive academic outcomes, including stronger grades and test scores, the focus of the AYA Project is both personal as much as academic development. Through their songwriting, AYA students not only develop their talents as singers and musicians, they also find new ways to express themselves and give voice to their unique struggles and stories. Along the way, they reach new levels of confidence and self-esteem, and take steps towards achieving their dreams as professional music artists.

2. Young people matter…

In high schools all over our city and our nation, young people with tremendous talent are walking through hallways, sitting in classrooms, or worse, dropping out of school, without any chance to develop their gifts. As music programs are slashed in budget battles and those that remain focus largely on traditional music styles, too many students are left to pursue their dreams alone. At the AYA Project, these are the students we hope to reach, and everything we do is based on the voices and ideas of our students themselves. We encourage our students to focus on the music they love- Pop, R&B, Hip-hop, and other styles- and instruct our mentors to do the same. In addition, we check in with students throughout our programming to find out what we can do better, or what they need more of. In the end, our students learn that they can do more than emulate their favorite artists- they can write their own stories in music and share them with the world.

3. …and adults matter too.

There is no shortage of research showing the value of connection between an adolescent and a caring, supportive adult. Mentors not only provide guidance and an added source of motivation, they can also provide valuable advice, encouragement, and a connection to additional resources. No doubt- AYA Project mentors do all of the above. In addition, as artists working in the same industry that our students are aspiring to, they also serve as role models in ways that many traditional educators or youth development professionals cannot. Through the vulnerable but inspiring process of songwriting, mentors and students forge strong bonds quickly and develop the key aspects of any solid mentoring relationship: trust, mutuality, and empathy. By matching mentors based on both personal and musical qualities, the AYA Project ensures that these connections will push students to find their path and follow their dreams.

 

What you can do help…

If you’d like to be involved in the AYA Project, or simply support the work we do, please don’t hesitate to contact our Program Director, Ricky Strickler, at fstrickler@gmail.com.

You can also make a donation by visiting our Donations page.

Most of all, please know that your support is deeply appreciated. Thank you and lots of love. Peace.