'Purple Playground' inspires students with the music of Prince

Inside the High School For Recording Arts, music fills the air. But this is no ordinary school of rock, it's also a tribute to his purple majesty.

Nearly two dozen students are lifting their voices in harmony in the studio, and in the process, they are getting an education in musicology.

"Prince is just a phenomenal artist and the way he lived his life, created his music and the way he used his music, not only for entertainment but also as a vehicle for social change. We try to tap into that," said Purple Playground director of education Willie Adams.

Purple Playground was started by fans and people who worked with Prince after he died in 2016 to keep his legacy alive.

Every year, they host a two-week summer music camp called Academy Of Prince, where they use the Minnesota musician to help teenagers find their inner muse to write and record their own songs.

"Through analysis of his lyrics, through the way he wrote and recorded music, how can we learn from that? How can we take some nuggets and gems to keep that moving forward even though he's no longer with us," said Adams.

The curriculum not only includes history lessons about Prince but also the "Minneapolis Sound" he helped create and made famous around the world. Guest teachers range from Bobby Z and Matt Fink from The Revolution, to Paul Peterson from The Family, to the drummer for The Time, Jelly Bean Johnson.

This year, the purple pupils even took a field trip to Paisley Park.

"We honor Prince but we try to make students understand that he's part of a greater legacy here in the Twin Cities," said Adams.

Elisa Fiorillo was a member of the New Power Generation as a backup singer for five years.

"Unbelievable. He was one of the best teachers I've ever had," said Fiorillo.

She believes Prince would be proud to see her teaching 13-to-18-year-olds about creativity and collaboration as a way to find their own voice.

"It's been a beautiful experience. I've had a lot of parents cry, thanking us and taking their shy kids who were stuck on their phone or computer all day and came home and wrote a song or just felt better about themselves and they connected with children," said Fiorillo.

Kimora Collins has attended AOP since the very beginning.

"I'm not really a Prince fan. I'm not going to lie. I'm kind of a fake Prince fan, which I know I shouldn't say," said Collins.

She says Prince is a textbook example of the ultimate artist, whose body of work inspires others to follow in his footsteps.

"Just working with people who Prince worked with is a pretty big deal. Just to say I did this for the experience to further myself as an artist. I'm so grateful to have an opportunity," said Collins.

And who knows? Maybe the Academy Of Prince's revolutionary approach to music education will eventually crown the next member of Minnesota royalty.

"I don't think there will ever be another Prince, that level of creativity and genius, I think only happens in a lifetime. However, I believe that through our program and reimagining music education we will create the next artist who will be just as influential for the generation behind us," said Adams.