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What It Is, What It Does

PIANO SLAM is a Spoken Word competition and education program created by the Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation, that for 17 years in partnership with the Miami-Dade Public Schools has brought live classical and jazz 2 piano performances and spoken word artists to middle and senior high students in Title 1 schools. The program reaches every Miami-Dade middle and senior high student through the school district’s online platforms. The PIANO SLAM poetry competition culminates in a free live performance by student winners and an awards ceremony co-presented by the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center.

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PIANO SLAM 2023 programs took place live in 15 middle and high schools across Miami-Dade County and included 2 high schools for incarcerated youth. 26 schools participated virtually, as all resources including performances, teacher training, writing workshops, and environmental science STEAM programming are available online. Over 6,000 teenagers participated this year. The winning students were evenly divided between middle and high school and included one incarcerated student and two special needs students.

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“Rhythms & Writings of Restoration”

The theme of PIANO SLAM 2024 will be “Rhythms & Writings of Restoration,” and the music will be Dranoff’s most recent 2 piano commission, by Chucho Valdes, one of the most famous Cuban artists performing today. He dedicates the piece to restoring the legacy of Afro-Cuban composers and musicians unjustly unknown. Live musical performances and program opportunities for students, families, and teachers will present the history of artists neglected through cultural suppression. The poetry competition will expand to include student music or soundscapes that should be safeguarded for future generations, and writing workshops for educators will include the inspiration of music and the sounds of our environment.


Science and education partners, Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental DERM Resource Management, the UM Rosenstiel School, and FIU Earth Science will offer expanded curriculum and in school science presentations. Science curriculum includes research regarding health of our physical environment, eco-education programs, and community restoration projects underway.

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How It Works

Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation commissions new works for 2 pianos, and each year’s PIANO SLAM theme is connected to a Dranoff commissioned piece. Well over 100,000 students have participated in PIANO SLAM programs overall, and students have submitted over 25,000 poems, which are judged by a jury of published poets. For the past 11 years PIANO SLAM has included a STEAM track and has taken students and their teachers to music performances, provided teacher workshops, environmental science research activities, and citizen science field trips by students to study environmental issues impacting their lives.

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“Hot Music, Hot Miami”

The PIANO SLAM theme this year was “Hot Music, Hot Miami,” with theme music “Chiaroscuro” by Grammy, Academy Award, and Pulitzer Prize winning classical composer, John Corigliano. Miami-Dade County’s Chief Heat Officer, Jane Gilbert, and DERM’s James Duncan educated teachers and students about the science of extreme heat and hotspots in school neighborhoods. Teachers and students placed heat sensors around their schools. FIU Environment & Earth Science faculty Tiffany Troxler and Shading Dade taught and brought the right trees to plant on their school hotspots. In partnership with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, FIU School of Earth and Environmental Science, and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, themes in past years have included the local community impact of environmental and health topics such as ocean currents, water quality, plastic pollution, and the pandemic.

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PIANO SLAM will also provide live and virtual field trips for teens to Matheson Hammock Park where 90% of the area is designated natural forest and environmentally endangered lands. This is an area designated for restoration, and students will participate in the process. There will also be a free public concert and tree giveaway at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, featuring student poets, music, and sounds to save for future generations. The Grand Finals concert performance will be at the Arsht in the Knight Concert Hall with the best poems and students’ selected soundscapes, accompanied by professional musicians.


IMPACT OF PIANO SLAM Florida International University Community Based Research Institute carried out and published a three-year study and evaluation of PIANO SLAM in 2022. This study, using objective criteria and in-depth analysis, found that participation in PIANO SLAM enhanced both the personal and educational well-being and achievement of students, and promoted focused learning and freedom of expression.


Teachers across Miami-Dade agreed that PIANO SLAM was a valuable experience for both them and the students. Results of the study are available upon request.

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