Playing For Change arose from a common belief that music has the power to connect people regardless of their differences. In 2005, a small group of filmmakers set out with a dream to create a film rooted in the music of the streets. Not only has that dream been realized, it has grown into a global sensation that has touched the lives of millions of people around the world.

When the crew set out, they created a mobile recording studio and went around the world filming musicians in the places where they lived. The sound was then mixed, and although the musicians were never in the same room—or even the same country or continent—they were unified through music with each contributing her or his distinct gifts to the whole. While traveling the world to film and record, the crew got to know the music and people of each community they visited. Those involved wanted to give something back to the musicians who had shared so much with them.

In 2007, the Playing for Change Foundation was established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. Our mission is to create positive change through music and arts education. As one of our students in Nepal stated, “Music is an indispensable part of life -‐ you cannot live without music.” We couldn’t agree more. At the Playing For Change Foundation, we live our lives by this principle and apply it to everything we do.

Wondering what you can do to help us further our mission? Get involved or Donate

What We Do | Playing For Change Foundation

PFCF Financials Who's behind it?

What we do

12 music schools and programs have been created in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Thailand. More than 1,000 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.

Guiding principles

  • Using Music to Transform Lives and Communities: Caring adults encourage discipline, joy and personal expression through music and arts programs. Programs emphasize tolerance and shared understanding as methods for solving problems.
  • Connecting People and Communities: Cameras and other technology empower individuals and communities to tell their own stories. Children in different countries and schools learn about and get to know peers who live in dramatically different regions and circumstances.
  • Economic Empowerment: We use local materials and labor when building; utilize local teachers and administrative staff and provide living wages; and create opportunities for earned income through performances, and creating costumes, instruments and art for sale.
  • Local Leadership: Programs are led and affirmed by local village and community leaders.

Where we're going

In 2015 we more than doubleD the number of students we serve by initiating new programs in Bangladesh, a network of charter schools in the United States, and in the community of Curitiba, Brazil.

In our ongoing effort to connect the world through music, our direction has been shaped by where we have been and by those who have inspired us along the way. With this in mind, we strive to:

  • Continue progress and foster sustainability with schools currently in development
  • Establish valuable partnerships and collaborate with other organizations
  • Expand the opportunities and resources available to communities in need
  • Be an access point for various forms of aid, including clean water, electricity, and medical resources
  • Create positive change through music education

Who's behind it

Brian Applestein


With a conga in one hand and a calculator in the other, Brian serves as President of the... more

Mark Johnson

Founder, Ex-Officio

Mark Johnson is a Grammy®-winning producer/engineer and award-winning film director... more

Whitney Kroenke

Founder, Ex-Officio

Whitney Kroenke has been a part of the Playing For Change family since meeting Mark... more

Alan Eccel

Alan is an entreprenor from Brusque, Santa Catarina, Brazil. He graduated from Positivo... more

Joel Goulder

Joel Goulder is a founding member of the Playing For Change Foundation. He has been... more

Thomas Grimm

Tom is an expert in system integration and the development of collaborative... more

Greg Johnson

Greg's lifelong love of music began as far back as he can remember, growing up with... more

Jeremy Goulder

Jeremy Goulder is a storyteller, passionate about creating and sharing media that... more

Mark Kennedy

Though born and raised in Myrtle Beach, SC, Mark's family tree is rooted across the Blue... more

Gail Leibowitz

Gail has always been an avid music fan and when she saw the Playing for Change... more

Andrew Luce


Andrew Luce brings his experience in business relationship development, tactical... more

Seema Tikare

Seema Tikare grew up as a nomad, having lived in Pondicherry, Goa, and Bangalore, India,... more

Laura McGuigan

Melissa Torre

LisaBeth Weber


LisaBeth Weber brings her passion for making a difference in the world to the Board of... more

Raan Williams

In 1998, armed with a B.A. in business from The Ohio State University, Raan moved west... more

Ella Windsor

Ella met PFC Co-Founder Mark Johnson in Santa Monica in July 2012 with PFC Band members... more

Elizabeth Holler Hunter

Executive Director

Elizabeth began working with the Foundation in January 2010 as a consultant helping the... more

Shauna Murray

Director of Communications and Special Events

Shauna's lifelong passion for music began at a young age with lessons in piano, guitar,... more

Thea Karki

Director, Finance and Programs

Thea Karki is a proud member of the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF), she has been a... more

Christine West

Donor Relations and Outreach Coordinator

Christine is thrilled to be a member of the PFCF team! She took her first ballet class... more

Kentyah Fraser

Playing For Change Day Coordinator

Kentyah is a DJ, producer, percussionist, aspiring writer and burgeoning pop culture... more

Ryan Kranz

Donor Relations & Outreach Assistant

Growing up in a family heavily involved in musical theater and performance, Ryan... more

William Aura

Archivist / Asian Program Coordinator

William Aura's conscious dedication to global concerns has brought him over a dozen... more

François Viguié

Coordinator, African music programs

François has been an active member of Playing For Change since 2005. He first met... more

Julie Edwards


Julie grew up in an artistic household; playing music, writing stories, and painting were... more

Mahamadou Diabaté

Creative Director and Percussion Teacher Ecole de Musique de Kirina Creative Director... more

Suali Seidu

Drum & Dance teacher Bizung School of Music and Dance Suali teaches percussion... more

Prince Mahama

Guitar Teacher Bizung School of Music and Dance Prince Mahama is something of a... more

Mohammed Alidu

Co-Founder, Artistic Director & Percussion Teacher Bizung School of Music and... more

Benedict Ali Kolaan

Xylophone teacher Bizung School of Music and Dance Benedict Ali Kolaan is a music... more

Ahmed Abdul-Samed

Gonje teacher Bizung School of Music and Dance Abdul-Samed is a gonje musician, first... more

Jean Diarrah

French teacher École de Musique de Kirina French teacher and assistant for... more

Seydou Dembelé

Head administrator École de Musique de Kirina Seydou is an English teacher... more

Seydou Koné

Percussion teacher École de Musique de Kirina Seydou Koné is a master... more

Ladji Diabaté

Kora teacher École de Musique de Kirina Ladji Diabaté is a renowned... more

Mountaga Sissoko

Tama & Ngoni teacher École de Musique de Kirina Mountaga Sissoko is a... more


Percussion leader École de Musique de Kirina Master "djembéfola" and... more

Oumou Mariko

Dance teacher École de musique de Kirina Dance teacher. Oumou is a singer and... more

Karounga Diabaté

Balafon teacher École de Musique de Kirina Balafon teacher. Karounga is the... more

Pokie Klass

Co founder & Bass teacher Ntonga Music School Co founder & Bass teacher.... more

Nelson Mongezi

Piano teacher Ntonga Music School Nelson Mongezi is a pianist, arranger and composer... more


Saxophone teacher Ntonga Music School John is from Gugulethu and has been a... more

Kiran Nepali

Sarangi teacher Mitrata Music Program, Kathmandu, Nepal. Kiran plays sarangi for... more

Rameshowr Maharjan

Percussion teacher Mitrata Nepal Music Program, Kathmandu, Nepal. Master... more

Hari Kul

Music teacher Hari Kul Music Program Hari is a master drum maker taught by his... more


Drum and dance teacher Star School Music & Sports Program, Kigali, Rwanda. Samuel... more


Maths teacher Star School Music & Sports Program, Kigali, Rwanda Ezequiel is a... more


Sports educator Star School Music & Sports Program Emmanuel is a sports educator... more


Keyboard, guitar, base, and singing teacher Khlong Toey Music Program Heart started... more


Guitar teacher Khlong Toey Music Program, Bangkok, Thailand. Aum started to learn... more


Piano teacher Khlong Toey Music Program, Bankok, Thailand. Kristie is a highschool... more


Drums Teacher Khlong Toey Music Program, Bankok, Thailand. Jo is currently studying... more


Piano Teacher Khlong Toey Music Program, Bangkok, Bankok, Thailand. Melaney is a high... more


Flute teacher Khlong Toey Music Program, Bangkok Thailand. Tita is a high school... more

Mun Ling

Singing Teacher Khlong Toey Music Program,  Bankok, Thailand. Mun Ling is a... more


Singing Teacher Khlong Toey Music Program Julia is a high school student at Bangkok... more

Afeku Komla Frank

Frank teaches keyboard and theory at the Bizung School of Music and Dance in Tamale,... more

Ibrahim Samuel

Ibrahim Samuel, or Mr. Sammy, as the students know him, was born on the 9th of December... more

Asiedu Charles

A very talented drummer and teacher, Charles was born in Tamale on June 8th, 1992 to his... more

Adam “Dallah" Abduli

Adam Abduli, or “Dallah" as he’s known by his friends, is the nephew of... more

Margie Balter

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Margie Balter was bitten by the showbiz bug at a very... more

Stacie Freasier

Stacie joined the PFCF board to marry two of her passions -- music and nonprofits. A... more

Becky Jungmann