Purple Playground envisions a world where Prince’s legacy of positivity and giving continues in perpetuity. We formed our 501(c)3 nonprofit fan-based group in June of 2017 to honor Prince’s legacy and to provide as he did - with funds from our events used to create our Academy of Prince music program for teens. We raise funds through free parties and low cost events, t-shirt sales, and soliciting donations and grants.

Academy of Prince:

Watch the Video

Hear the Music

Purple Playground’s inaugural Academy of Prince summer music program took place August 6-10th, 2018, at High School for Recording Arts, a St. Paul, MN charter school founded by David “TC” Ellis, who grew up with Prince and rapped with him the New Power Generation.

In 2019 we expanded to a two-week program, held first at Urban Ventures, in the Minneapolis Central Neighborhood and at HSRA for week two. The expanded program gave us more time to explore Prince history and his influences and those he influenced.

The Academy of Prince program was created and taught by Willie Adams and Heidi Vader. Our inaugural class included teens from the Mpls/St. Paul metro area (and one from Iowa). The students learned Prince history through listening and discussing songs and videos by Prince and artists who influenced or were influenced by him, activities designed to help them “find the funk,” and guest speakers. They also wrote and recorded their own Prince inspired songs, along with the help of engineer TRYBISHOP Guest musicians included Bobby Z Rivkin and Matt Fink of The Revolution, Jellybean Johnson of The Time and The Family, Lakame McGee and Pete Johnson. The songs were mixed and mastered by TRYBISHOP and are available as Purple Playground’s “Finding the Funk” by Academy of Prince.

Guest speakers:

Mark Bonde, longtime Prince fan and motivational speaker

Andrea Swennson, Prince historian, host of the Local Show on 89.3 the Current, and author of Got To Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound.

PaviElle French, actor, neo-soul singer and composer

Bobby Z Rivkin, Revolution band member, music producer

“Dr” Matt Fink, Revolution band member, founder and director of artist relations at

Jon Bream, author and Minneapolis Star Tribune music writer since 1974

Jellybean Johnson, guitarist, producer, and The Time and The Family drummer

Terry Jackson - Prince childhood friend and member of Prince's first band, Grand Central

Jim Walsh - author of Gold Experience, musician and people appreciator 

Listen to: "Finding The Funk" songs by Purple Playground's Academy of Prince, class of 2018

Facts about Academy of Prince:

Diverse group of 13-15 year old singers and musicians from Mpls/St.Paul area 

Recruited through schools, community arts programs, Mpls Open Streets events and social media

2018 and 2019 Programs fully funded through donations

Special guests included songwriters, scholars and authors, including musicians who played in The Revolution and The Time.

Purple Playground Board Members: 

Heidi Vader: Founder

“Prince taught me to dream big and dare to make my dreams a reality.” 

A life-long Prince fan, Heidi celebrates his life, music and philanthropic legacy with others. Her prior nonprofit experience as a board member and marketing and volunteer coordinator for the Diverse Emerging Music Experience (DEMO), along with her purple passion, prepared her for this venture. Heidi also co-owns Child Development Review, which produces developmental screening and assessment tools for young children and has worked in the hospitality industry for decades.


Willie Adams:

“I’m excited to bring my passion for education and purple funk to Purple Playground’s mission and keep the beautiful and precious legacy of Prince alive for generations.”


Willie is an educator, DJ, and vocalist from the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied the music of Prince and the “Minneapolis Sound” intensively since the 1980’s. From 1991-1996 he was a prominent college radio DJ and music director at KUCI FM in Irvine CA. While living in England, Willie was the voice for all the UK radio adverts for the Emancipation album in 1996-97. 

He is the Co-founder of the fan group Purple Funk SF and served as a history and humanities teacher, counselor, and dean of students. He has also taught and lectured at the University of California Monterey and created and ran enrichment programs for underserved youth.

Karen Ryan: 

“I really admire Prince’s genius. Seeing him truly being in the flow and honoring his gift and his talents to create timeless music and performances was amazing. True genius is a gift and it was a gift to have experienced his genius live and up close at Paisley Park/in concert AND through his albums. And thinking of his genius inspires me to find my gifts and nurture them, too.”


Karen grew up in Chanhassen, MN - the opening of Paisley Park in 1987 capped years of following the releases of her talented neighbor. Throughout college and an advertising career in Chicago, she never missed a concert when Prince came to town. She enjoyed her first Paisley Park shows in 2015 upon making her way back home.


Karen has also helped start other nonprofit organizations. She is a founding Board member of GiGi’s Playhouse Twin Cities, an achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome and their families. She lives in Chanhassen with her family, just 2 miles from Paisley Park.



Star Tribune

SouthWest Journal

The Current

Chanhassen Villager

Podcast Juice


Contact Info: 

Heidi Vader



Purple Playground 

5905 Elliot Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55417

Twitter @purpleplayg

Facebook: PurplePlaygroundGroup