Lenfest and Gravagno Team Up to Bankroll Philly Youth Orchestras

This past July, Carole Haas Gravagno and The Lenfest Foundation gave a combined total of $1 million to Friere Charter to set up an after-school music program through Play On, Philly! Friere recently opened a middle school downtown at 11th and Market streets. Play On, Philly! will provide after-school training every week-day for fifth and six graders at the school on the investments from Gravagno and the Lenfests.

Stanford Thompson, progenitor of Play On, says the program currently has 160 students enrolled at their first location in West Philadelphia: St. Francis de Sales School. He expects that Friere's 11th and Market Street location will bolster the total number of the program's enrollees to 240. At the moment, a total of 28 teaching artists work for the program.

Your next chance to catch one of Play On's four youth symphony orchestras is December 16th at West Philadelphia Catholic High School.

Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest began their career in philanthropy in earnest back in 2000 when Gerry sold Lenfest Communications, a cable company, for $1.2 billion. After a $60 million cut went to the company's employees, the Lenfests committed to giving the remainder away over the next twenty years. Since then, The Lenfest Foundation has given away close to a million dollars to a wide range of organizations, from Columbia University to Curtis Institute of Music, Thompson of Play On's alma mater.

In addition to cutting off a $10 million slice for Teach For America, The Lenfest Foundation also set up a rather appetizing scholarship program that offers $12,000 a year for a BA at a private college and $7,500 at a public university. By 2009, however, Lenfest told The Inquirer that their coffers were mostly exhausted and that he expected that the Foundation would soon find itself in a state of hibernation.

Conversely, Carole Haas Gravagno, one of several family members in charge of administering the charitable trusts of Otto and Phoebe Haas, seems to have more gas in the philanthropy tank left to burn. Under the original terms of the agreement, the money would have gone into the family by now. According to The Inquirer, however, the family announced that, as of 2009, they will "remain committed to their fiduciary responsibilities and to ensuring that the resources of the Trusts continue to support worthwhile causes."