Penn Charter band wins contest

by Michael Caruso
Posted 6/27/24

The Upper School Symphonic Band of William Penn Charter School has been awarded a prestigious Grand Sweepstakes Award.

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Penn Charter band wins contest


The Upper School Symphonic Band of William Penn Charter School has been awarded the prestigious Grand Sweepstakes Award in the “High School Instrumental” category at the 2024 Hershey Park Showcase Festivals. Penn Charter’s Symphonic Band achieved the highest score of all instrumental ensembles participating in the Hershey Park Festival.

 The Hershey Park Showcase Festivals were held over the span of seven days in 2024. The competition included ensembles from numerous schools from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Each of the individual festival dates featured competitions in four categories: Overall High School Instrumental, Overall High School Choral, Overall Junior High/Middle School Instrumental, and Overall Junior High/Middle School Choral.

 William Penn’s Upper School Symphonic Band, which is directed by Brad Ford, competed against concert bands, jazz ensembles, full and string orchestras, and parade review ensembles numbering a total of ten groups. The Symphonic Band from Penn Charter School not only received the Overall Award at their Festival but also clinched the Grand Sweepstakes Award for having been the highest scoring high school instrumental group across all 2024 Hershey Park Music Showcase Festivals and the competing ensembles.

 “The school community, parents and administrators must be incredibly proud of their accomplishments,” explained Ron Simmons, the executive director of the Music Showcase Festivals. “On behalf of all of us at Music Showcase Festivals, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to Brad Ford and his students on such a remarkable achievement.”

 Ford expressed, “To be recognized as one of the top instrumental ensembles is truly a remarkable achievement. The students dedicate countless hours to rehearsals as well as remaining active in academics, service and athletics. It is remarkable to see their hard work be rewarded. The students continue to impress the Penn Charter Community and are eager to continue to represent the school and Greater Philadelphia in the future.”

 Ari Baker, Chair of the Performing Arts Center at Penn Charter, expanded upon these sentiments. “We are incredibly proud of our students for their hard work and dedication each and every day. Their outstanding achievement reflects not only their musical talent, but also the supportive and vibrant community they have built in the Performing Arts Center at Penn Charter. We’ve always known that they are an amazing group of students, we’re just so happy that they got to see how their hard work compares to other ensembles of their peers and to celebrate this honor with them.”

 Speaking of the Hershey Park competition, Avi Mondgock (class of 2026) said, “This was an amazing experience full of fun, focus, and community bonding. This first experience at a competition was both exhilarating and nerve-racking. The support of peers and our teachers was what really gave us joy and motivation to bring our music to the next level.”

 Touching on Penn Charter’s band program, Avi added, “This being my second year in the Upper School band program was one to remember. Our victory in the competition, the difficult pieces we mastered, and the amount of talent in one room was astounding. I hope to see this program expand and continue the great work that both the students and teachers have put in.”

 Alara Arkan (class of 2025) agreed. “I think the band program is the best thing at Penn Charter. We get to compete and go on trips and I get to do something I love with a wonderful teacher and very talented peers. I feel so supported and love every minute I spend playing my instrument in our band and I am so grateful to be a part of it.”

 As a member of the piano faculty at Settlement Music School since 1986, I understand and share the pride felt by both the faculty and administration at William Penn Charter School. There are few experiences more rewarding in this life of ours that are more meaningful than bringing the joy of music and music-making to young people. And I, myself, see that joy come to fruition whenever any of my students perform in recitals at Settlement.

 William Penn Charter School, founded in 1689, is a Pre-K through 12th grade independent Friends school located on 47 acres in the East Falls section of Northwest Philadelphia. It educates students to “live lives that make a difference and encourages them to be courageous learners, compassionate friends, constructive communicators, and cultivators of change.” 

 Established shortly after William Penn arrived on the shores of the Delaware River and founded the City of Philadelphia in 1682, the Quaker (Society of Friends) network of schools is one of the treasures of our region that sets Penn’s “Green Country Town” apart as a beacon highlighting the importance of education in our challenging world. For more information visit