While watching the Today show,  a segment they did caught my attention. It was a piece they did on a multimedia music project called “Playing For Change.” What caught my attention was the fact that the project began with simple everyday street performers and the belief that music could break through barriers of language, race, political status, culture etc. Through the power of music, differences could be set aside to unite people from all over the world.

 In 2005 Mark Johnson began the project with the intent to “inspire, connect and bring peace to the world” through music. (Taken from Play For Change website   http://www.playingforchange.com/journey/introduction) With a simple camera and some sound equipment they began to capture everyday people celebrating something they all loved: music. When I heard one of their performers Roger Ridley sing “Stand by Me”, it amazed me at how raw the sound was. The spirit behind the song was genuine. It didn’t matter that this man wasn’t some grand performer, but that his music was the message.

 With their intent well in mind, Johnson and his crew set out to travel around the world and record musicians from different cultures.  They complied their videos and shared them with the world.  Although each culture may be a little different, music is a language everyone can understand. Music is something you not only hear but feel.  What I love most is that the project takes emphasis off the person and  places more emphasis on the message. When music is created it doesn’t come with a label that specifies who it reaches. It’s not user specific so to speak. 

Johnson and his team put together a CD that included performances of  “Stand By Me” from all around the world. Some of the artists who help contribute include Grandpa Elliot, Roger Ridley, Twin Eagle Drum Group, Bono, Clarence Bekker, and Char from Tokyo, Japan. There is also a channel created on youtube.com dedicated to videos spotlighting performances from the project.  Since the beginning of the project, there have been other people including some celebrities who have helped contribute to the cause as well. The Playing for Change project can also be followed on twitter for updates about their events. The artists who help contribute,  go on benefit concerts around the world to help raise money to build music and art schools in communities where hope and inspiration are needed.   Seeing  the artists come together, miles from their own homes  proves the unifying power of music.

The Playing for Change project eventually turned into the Playing For Change Foundation in 2007. Johnson along with others help set up music programs for young people in the local communities where they would record. Johnson and his team were dedicated in providing a music education for those who would have never otherwise had the opportunity or  resources.  According to the website the foundation currently has 7 programs and 600 students. The programs focus on bringing about positive social changes through the use of music. Johnson and his team are hoping that the programs are a more positive alternative to the struggles youth in the community might normally face. Creating the music and art programs was Johnson’s way of giving back to the communities.

Below is a music video of the song that started it all:  “Stand By Me”

Here is a video about the Playing for Change Foundation


Playing For Change Foundation Overview from PlayingForChangeFoundation on Vimeo.

To find out more information about Playing for Change and The Playing for Change Foundation visit their website at:


Both websites offer ways to help contribute or volunteer  for either project.

 Playing for Change proves the power of music to unite people  for a common cause.


About Alex McClain

Writing is a gift of mine that I enjoy sharing with others. What I love more than writing is the actual story, finding others who share the same passion as I do and discoverin g a certain creative energy in others. This is what keeps me inspired. Finding these people and telling their stories. I'm a senior at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, fl. I'm a communications major with a concentration in print journalism. If you're interested in contacting me for any freelance work or you're interested in me writing about you for my blog email me at alexandra_mcclain1989@yahoo.com

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