Managing Editor: Juliana Zhu, Esq.
Volume 2, Issue 2, Winter 2013
PLAYING FOR CHANGE
By Emily Randall
Music is a universal language that speaks to and through every culture and nation. For some children, it is their only source of education or their only option aside from life on the street. The Playing For Change Foundation gives hope to children in impoverished nations by providing extra-curricular opportunities to learn music. Safe places to learn and perform music give them a source of identity that reduces the risk of gang affiliation, crime, and alternative economies.
How It All Began
A decade ago a small group of documentary filmmakers set out with a dream to create a film rooted in the music of the streets. While traveling the world filming and recording musicians, the crew became intimately involved with the music and the people of each community that they visited. Although many of these communities had limited resources and a modest standard of living, the people in them were full of generosity, warmth, and above all they were connected to each other by a common thread: music. This connection has blossomed into a global sensation called Playing For Change, a project including musicians of every level of renown that has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Out of this project, the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF) was born in 2007, and made its mission to create positive change through music and arts education.
Connecting the World Through Music
Playing For Change serves as a platform for creating, distributing and celebrating world-class music from all cultures. PFC’s unique music, combining voices and music from artists around the world, has garnered a global audience of over 250 million through videos, CDs and live performances. Focusing on universal themes such as peace, hope, love, solidarity and survival, PFC music has a powerful impact on its audience – generating feelings of inspiration, joy and unity. Eleven of these musicians from nine countries have come together to form the PFC Band, which has performed over 150 concerts around the world.
PFCF music schools and programs are designed to benefit the students and the communities where they live. Materials and labor for the buildings are locally sourced and supplied. When possible, instruments are made by and purchased from local artisans, classes are taught by local teachers, and the schools are owned and administered by local community members. The community is invested in the success of its school. To date, PFCF has created nine music programs, including the construction of three music schools in South Africa, Ghana, and Mali, and the development of six music programs in Rwanda, Thailand, and Nepal. Close to 700 children participate in free classes each week and subjects include song, dance, playing instruments, teaching cultural traditions, and, in some cases, basic literacy. By providing children a safe place to learn, flourish, and express themselves, PFCF offers a creative alternative to the struggles many of these children face daily.
Our Khlong Toey Music Program, for example, is located in a vast slum in Bangkok, Thailand. The slum is home to about 100,000 people, and is stricken with poverty and violence. With such social and ﬁnancial problems, the children are often prevented from receiving a proper education. This music program was co-founded in 2012 by two PFC supporters who wanted to provide these children with music instruction and a safe environment. Guitar, ukelele, keyboard, drums and dance are taught to approximately 20 eager students. This program helps build self-esteem and hope in young people, providing a sense of family and belonging for kids who might otherwise be roaming in gangs, snifﬁng glue or dealing drugs.
I Love Playing For Change Day
In 2011, the Playing For Change Foundation launched their annual fundraiser, Playing For Change Day. This global day of celebration was created so that all of PFC’s supporters could get involved and share in our global community. Musicians from all around the world, including students at PFCF programs, perform to inspire and to help bring music into the lives of young people. The day coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, and is part of our ongoing commitment to use music to connect people and to bring peace to the world. In 2012, PFC Day had 332 events in 52 countries on six continents, which raised over $150,000 to help support PFCF music programs worldwide.
A Message from PFC Co-Founder, Mark Johnson
“Thanks to the amazing people that we have met on our journey– people in the poorest towns and villages who still manage to find hope in the midst of their daily struggles– we believe now more than ever in the resiliency of the human spirit, and in music’s ability to transform a dire situation into a hopeful one. We live in a world that walks over homeless people on our way to work like they don’t exist, we have way too many starving children and warring nations. What is there to remind us of the power of the human spirit? As a human race we come together for birth and we come together for death, but what brings us together in between is up to us. Stop and listen to the universal language of music and bring that positive energy with you everywhere you go…” – Mark Johnson
Emily Randall graduated summa cum laude from UC Davis in June of 2012 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a completed minor in Music. She has always been involved in music in some way, singing with choirs and in musical productions through high school, spending the majority of her college career singing in an all-female a cappella group. While studying abroad in Madrid, Spain in 2010, Emily gave a class presentation on street performing, and through her research, she came across Playing For Change. She has been in love with the organization ever since, and, having previously worked in the field of Communications for two other non-profit organizations, Emily is glad to continue in that line of work. Emily is thrilled to have the opportunity to work for both Playing For Change and the PFC Foundation. She dedicates herself to the inspirational mission of connecting the world through music.