Girard College is a five-day boarding school for academically capable first-through-twelfth-grade students from families with limited financial resources. The school opened in 1848. All admitted students receive a full scholarship to cover tuition, books, uniforms, and room and board. Girard College is committed to serving as a Campus for the City, seeking to activate resources that engage diverse communities throughout Philadelphia and lead conversations on issues of educational equity and social justice, particularly through the arts.
A world premiere musical performance uses as its libretto poet Ross Gay’s book-length poem Be Holding—inspired by “Dr. J” Julius Erving’s famous lay-up for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980 NBA Finals. The work explores themes of Black genius and beauty in the face of racial violence and inequities. The creative process for the piece engaged the students at Girard College, a tuition-free boarding school for academically capable first-through-twelfth-grade students from families with limited financial resources. In a multi-year residency, Gay and composer Tyshawn Sorey collaborated with Girard College students, musical ensemble Yarn/Wire, and poet/performers David A. Gaines and Pew Fellow Yolanda Wisher to develop the piece. Brooke O’Harra directs, and Girard students participate as performers, designers, documentarians, and stage managers.
The total grant amount represents project funding plus an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support.