Stanford Leon Thompson is a native of Decatur, Georgia, where he began his musical studies at the age of eight. He studied trumpet with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Georgia State University. Stanford earned a Bachelor of Music from the Curtis Institute of Music where he held the William A. Loeb Fellowship. While in Philadelphia, he had the opportunity to perform with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, and Symphony in C, and recorded on the Ondine label with Christoph Eschenbach. Stanford also appeared as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Ocean City Pops Orchestra and the North Springs Philharmonic. He has led residencies with his brass quintet, Philos Brass, and performed extensively with the Rittenhouse Jazz Quintet.
Stanford Thompson has collaborated with such organizations as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Kenyan Urithi Education Fund, The Curtis Institute of Music, Musicopia, and Symphony in C to design and present programs for students and adults. In addition to serving as the founding Artistic Director of the Reading Summer Music Institute, Stanford also serves as the Director of Operations for the Atlanta Trumpet Festival and served on the faculty of the Atlanta Academy of Music and Symphony in C Summer Camp. He manages professional music ensembles, maintains a private trumpet studio and counsels musicians of all ages.
A Talk with Stanford Thompson
How did you hear about the Abreu Fellows program?
I heard about the Abreu Fellowship program from the career development officer at the Curtis Institute of Music during my undergraduate studies. She recommended that I apply to the program.
Why did you apply?
I was making a tough decision between beginning a professional performing career or attending graduate school, and no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I should take one of those paths, I knew that my heart was in using music and my talents to benefit my community and society. I was positive this program would provide me with that opportunity.
What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?
I believe the Abreu Fellows program will help me to develop skills in developing, organizing and implementing successful music programs. There is no need to reinvent the wheel because we have a successful program in Venezuela to learn from. I believe these tools will be extremely helpful in creating a model to be followed throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?
I see myself organizing and/or supporting major music education initiatives in the United States and abroad that will make music more accessible to their communities while supporting social change.
Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?
Music education should not necessarily be designed to produce musicians or a higher level of music appreciation; it should be a vehicle that can tell us where we belong and who we are. Every child should have the opportunity to learn teamwork to pull together for the common good, build self esteem, develop confidence and be able to express their emotions in a positive way.
Regarding the present state of music education for children in the U.S., what has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?
The music educators I know are miracle workers and do an amazing job with their students under all types of negative and positive pressures. I believe that the teaching is done correctly in the classrooms, but most programs need more community support and missions that reflect the need to serve children and their communities.
How did you learn about El Sistema?
I learned about Gustavo Dudamel by researching about his life. I was an intern in the Philadelphia Orchestra School Partnership Program and worked with a violinist that went through the El Sistema program. He was able to share his personal experiences with me.
Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?
El Sistema has a flexible way of working with students and using music education as a way to enrich their lives. The music programs I myself went through were concerned about having the very best; however, El Sistema has proved that music can nurture the soul, especially those that could use the nourishment the most. This program brings the community together and strengthens the community while providing music education.
Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?
Yes, I have taught music to and mentored children in programs across the U.S., Asia, and Africa. I have found a greater reward in using my musical talents for the benefit of education and serving communities than I have performing in the world's best concert halls.