A Brief Introduction Playing for Change


What is Playing For Change?

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. The idea for this project emerged from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.

Our primary focus is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and produce live music videos. We have learned that it is not only possible but also extremely effective to communicate social messages through these videos — even those considered taboo in certain cultures. Our primary goal is to inspire and connect the world through music.

We believe that everyone has something positive they can add to this planet regardless of their circumstances; we want them to know they are not alone. What began as a dream in 2004 by two guys with a video camera has now grown into a global movement of artists united by their passion for sharing their gifts with people all over the world, along with an ever-growing group of individuals who support our efforts both spiritually and financially.

Playing For Change is a multimedia music project, created by the American producer and sound engineer Mark Johnson, which seeks to bring together musicians from around the world. The concept of Playing For Change began as an idea to record a version of the Ben E. King song “Stand By Me” with musicians around the world contributing to different portions of the song. The resulting video became a minor Internet phenomenon and the concept grew into the Playing For Change Band, a tangible band made up of musicians met during the project’s recordings.

Johnson conceived Playing for Change after he first tried to record a group of children singing “Stand by Me” in Kliptown, South Africa, in 1997. He completed his first major recording ten years later while working on a documentary film in West Africa. Since then, he has traveled throughout Latin America and Europe capturing music wherever he finds it and combining it with other recordings. In 2006, Johnson produced a documentary film about Playing for Change entitled A Cinematic Discovery of Street Musicians, which was released in 2007 and features artists such as Manu Chao and Keith Richards.

Johnson’s work has been praised for its success at breaking down cultural barriers and inspiring people worldwide to appreciate one another through music. In 2009 Johnson was presented with an award from United Nations

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.

Our primary focus is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and combine their talents and cultural power in innovative videos we call Songs Around The World. Creating these videos inspired us to form the Playing For Change Band—a tangible, traveling representation of our mission, featuring musicians met along our journey, and establish the Playing For Change Foundation—a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world. Through these initiatives we aim to create hope and inspiration for the future of our planet.

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. The idea for this project came about in 2002 when a common friend introduced two passionate musicians, Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke, to one another in Santa Monica, CA. Together they decided to travel the world with a mobile recording studio and laptop computer recording local musicians performing the same song. The goal was to see what would happen if these musicians around the world were brought together with the universal language of music.

The results were stunning, and the vision for Playing For Change was born – create a worldwide family of musicians connected by their love of music. Playing For Change is more than a band. It’s more than a record label. It’s more than a production company. Playing For Change is a movement inspired by the simplicity of music and driven by the integrity of artists who believe that peace is possible through understanding and compassion.

The Playing For Change Foundation has been established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to building music schools for children around the world and enriching their lives through music education.

One Heart at a Time!

Playing For Change: The Music Revolution

Playing For Change is a global music movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. Our primary focus is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and combine their talents and cultural power in innovative videos we call Songs Around The World. Creating these videos motivated us to form the Playing For Change Band—a tangible, traveling representation of our mission, featuring musicians met along our journey, and establish the Playing For Change Foundation—a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world. Through these efforts we seek to create hope and inspiration for the future of our planet.

Playing for Change began in 2002 when director Mark Johnson traveled to New Orleans and was inspired by the musical culture on the streets. He started recording the street musicians he encountered and soon realized that he could create a new sound by bringing together music from around the world.

Johnson returned from New Orleans with the idea of creating a project that would connect people from different cultures through music. Through his work on various documentaries and music videos, he had befriended many musicians around the world and decided to collaborate with them on an album. This album would combine his vision of creating a single song or piece of music performed by multiple artists, each contributing their own talents, to portray a broader sense of unity between people.

In 2005 Johnson created Playing for Change: Peace Through Music, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation dedicated to providing education and resources to musicians around the world. In 2009 Johnson and his team released the Playing For Change 2: Songs Around The World CD/DVD featuring 37 musicians from 15 different countries.

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. The idea for this project emerged from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.

Through our efforts we aim to create hope and inspiration for the future of our planet. We believe that the ELKHORN MUSIC FESTIVAL is a direct expression of these goals. The Playing For Change Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to building music schools for children around the world. We are committed to social change and stand against racial, gender and economic inequality.


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