Stanford Leon Thompson

Photo: Bret Hartman

Born and raised in a musical family, I began playing trumpet at the age of 8 and studied with members of the Georgia State University faculty and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. After implementing several successful entrepreneurial ventures as a child, I grew more interested in combining my musical talents and interests in business to build various social projects. In 2010, I founded the El-Sistema-inspired program Play On Philly where I currently serve as Executive Director and have secured over $13 million in funding which has impacted the lives of hundreds of children in Philadelphia. 

Inspiring audiences to appreciate the power of music and orchestras is one of my greatest passions. I regularly speak to the communities of TED, League of American Orchestras, and El Sistema-inspired initiatives around the world. I believe orchestras offer us lessons in leadership, innovation, diversity and inclusion.

Giving back to organizations with music at the core of their mission is important to me. I currently serve on the boards of the American Composers Forum, Marian Anderson Award and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. Previously, I was a board member for the Curtis Institute of Music, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and El Sistema USA. 


As a trained, professional trumpeter, I've performed with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, Symphony in C and recorded on the Ondine label with Christoph Eschenbach. I also appeared as a soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Ocean City Pops Orchestra and the North Springs Philharmonic. I lead residencies with Philos Brass in Pennsylvania and Georgia where we performed recitals and outreach presentations, presented master classes, and conducted clinics. In the jazz idiom, I have performed for the Berks Jazz Festival, on the Washington College Concert Series and presented for the opening gala of the Philadelphia Orchestra with the Rittenhouse Jazz Quintet.


I'm a native of Atlanta, GA and hold degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellows Program.