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:
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.
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
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.
In 2020, Purple Playground received 3 grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board and were able to expand to Zoom programs that included Twin Cities teens and also students from around the globe. We also added two musicians who worked with Prince as teachers and board members - Elisa Fiorillo and Adrian Crutchfield. And Zoom brought us guest speakers from all over the US as well.
Purple Playground Board Members:
Heidi Vader: Director
“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: Education Director
“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.
ElisElisa Fiorillo: Music Director
"Working with young talent and inspiring them to be creative to write songs and sing is a passion I didn’t know I had. It’s absolutely awesome to keep Prince’s music and legacy alive through the eyes of our children."
Elisa started her musical career early, performing on Broadway and winning Star Search before the age of 16. She started writing her own songs while still a teen and performed with Prince and the NPG for many years.
Elisa joined Purple Playground as an Academy of Prince guest speaker, but it quickly became apparent that her passion for sharing her songwriting and singing talents with the students required more. She graciously accepted our invitation to join the board and we look forward to many more Academy of Prince's with her.
Adrian Crutchfield: Music Director
Adrian learned how to play sax before he learned how to ride a bike.
Known as the last horn-man to perform and record with Prince (2012-2016); Adrian is featured on many of Prince’s final masterpieces including the 2017 Grammy-Nominated Hit-N-Run Phase 2, and the unreleased but highly anticipated “Black Is The New Black” Album.
His encouragement and easygoing way with the teens at Academy of Prince gives them confidence to step outside of their comfort zones and create unique and new music.
Adrian is a 2008 graduate of Florida State University (B.A. in Music with a concentration in jazz, contemporary media, and commercial music).
“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.
5905 Elliot Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55417