Playing For Change got off to a magical start with a street musician named Roger Ridley. He was the real inspiration for PFC founder Mark Johnson. It was 2005 and Johnson happened to be out for a walk in Santa Monica, California.
It was the voice of Ridley singing “Stand By Me” that caught Mark’s attention as Roger sang for anyone who happened to find themselves in the Santa Monica pedestrian walking area where he had set up his microphone and amplifier. “Stand by Me” is a song originally performed by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King, written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. According to King, the title is derived and was inspired by a spiritual composition by Sam Cooke called “Stand by Me Father”. The fact that it was a song with such a universal message may have been what inspired Mark Johnson with what has grown into a global effort to spread peace, hope and goodwill. Roger had so much soul and conviction in his voice that Mark approached him about performing “Stand By Me” as what would come to be known as a “Song Around the World”. Roger agreed, and when Mark returned with recording equipment and cameras he asked Roger, “With a voice like yours, why are you singing on the streets?” Roger replied, “Man I’m in the Joy business, I come out to be with the people.”
Mr. Ridley is a great example of how we can participate as designers of the more compassionate and loving global reality. Music has great power to affect one’s mood and attitude. It can work at a subliminal level including a mix of images and vibrations. The idea of a “song around the world” really does have a magical power to create a sense of oneness. Mark Johnson would go on to build a team of tech people and a network of musicians around the world to teach and spread joy and hope through music. “Stand by Me” and many other songs have been filmed with a large and varied group of musicians, both famous and previously unknown, performing the music and singing the words. For the “songs around the world” series the same song is performed by individuals and groups of musicians and singers in different locations around the planet. Then, all of these recordings are edited into a final version that is a montage of all of the recordings weaving beautiful international tapestries of sound and scenery.
Through the process for the Songs Around the World series, PFC saw the opportunity to bring together many of the musical talents that they found in their journeys to form a touring band, The Playing For Change Band. These musicians come from many different countries and cultures, but through music they speak the same language. The PFC Band has provided an exciting and rewarding platform for these musicians as they travel the world spreading their message of love and hope to audiences wherever they go. They have become a powerful force for spreading “PositiVibes” around the globe. Through the spread of hope and good cheer they are directly contributing to the positive transformation of global consciousness and individual realities.
With the intention of also making a direct contribution to the lives of as many people as possible, PFC has created the Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world to foster hope and inspiration for the future of our planet.
Here is the “What we do” section from their website at PlayingForChange.org as of August 2017:
15 music programs have been created in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Argentina and Thailand. More than 2,000 young people attend free classes in dance, instruments, languages and musical theory, all taught by qualified local teachers.
Projects also help meet essential needs of the larger community, including the provision of aid such as food, clean water, medicine, clothes, books, school supplies, solar energy, computers, and other modern technology. Over 15,000 people have been impacted by the Foundation’s community development and empowerment efforts throughout our program regions and beyond.
Annual program evaluations reinforce the real and positive impact of music education and demonstrate change in action. When children play music together, collaboration increases and conflict is reduced. And critically important to children, particularly those who are vulnerable due to poverty, conflict, drugs, and neglect, is that learning music increases self-esteem and fosters resilience and joy.
Learning music has also been shown to increase self-esteem and foster resilience, which is critically important to children who are vulnerable due to poverty, conflict, drugs, and neglect.
No matter who you are or where you come from, we can all be united through music.
You can do a little work as a Positive Designer of Reality by supporting this movement and becoming a Member of the “Playing For Change” family. The hope is that through exposure to all of these ideas that more and more people will realize that together we will make the world a better place.