Accessibility is oftentimes one of the biggest factors that deter young music lovers from living out their dreams. In underprivileged areas, some students may be so consumed with other struggles that they don’t know how to enjoy themselves or discover what they may be interested in. This is the case at many underprivileged schools in Philadelphia. Hill-Freedman World Academy, in partnership with World Cafe Live, is taking a stand against this issue and allowing students to express themselves through sound.

A documentary titled Stand Up & Shout will be released on November 7th, showcasing the process of previously musically-inexperienced students learning how to make a record. This film was executively produced by musician John Legend, along with Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius, and Tommy Benjamin. The Hill-Freedman World Academy in Philadelphia offers a remarkable music program that teaches students the ins and outs of all things music from composing to performing. With this new-found knowledge, the students featured in the documentary put together an album titled GROWING UP BLACK, which features work from 100 Philadelphia teenagers. The album, available on SoundCloud, consists of 34 songs that describe the troubling experiences that these children have faced, including racial injustice, family issues, and financial issues. They also speak on how music became an emotional outlet for them as they advanced through the program. Students were able to put their passion into something productive and create a beautiful outcome from their musical expression.

Although this album is receiving much attention now due to the documentary, Hill-Freedman’s music program has been educating students about music for seven years. Program Director Ezechial Thurman began “Hill-Freedman World Academy Records” which is a program where 9th and 10th graders get to release an album every year. Students have expressed their immense gratitude for Mr. Thurman, explaining that he has given them a safe space for expression, along with a boost in confidence amongst themselves. It is inspiring to see Philadelphia educators dedicate themselves to improving student experiences, especially in underprivileged areas. It is even more inspiring that this staff created a program that lets students find freedom through music. Hopefully, these students take this knowledge and continue to do what they love without fear or unjust setbacks. 

Watch the trailer below. Stand Up & Shout comes out via HBO on November 7th.

Stand Up & Shout: Songs from a Philly High School | Official Trailer | HBO