History, Mission, and Guiding Principles of the Playing For Change Foundation

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 film makers 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.

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

What We Do | Playing For Change Foundation

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What We Do

What We Do Image

Nine music schools and programs have been created in South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Rwanda, Nepal and Thailand. More than 600 kids attend free classes in dance, instruments, languages and musical theory, all taught by qualified local teachers.

Projects also meet basic needs for some of the world’s most economically vulnerable children. This includes primary education, literacy, and the provision of humanitarian aid such as food, medicine, clothes, books and school supplies. Solar light and energy, laptop computers, and other modern technology have also been introduced in areas where previously unavailable.

Recent program evaluations reinforce the real and positive impact of music education and demonstrate change in action. Music education improves students’ learning in math and language, increases students’ self-esteem, and fosters joy.

Guiding Principles

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  • 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

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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

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.


Brian Applestein

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

Mark Johnson
Founder, Ex-Officio

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

Whitney Kroenke
Secretary and Founder, Ex-Officio

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

Dave Bacon

David Bacon grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area surrounded by the influence of music. David's…more

Heather Bacon

Heather Bacon grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She attended Colorado State…more

Tomago Collins
Jeremy Goulder

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

Joel Goulder

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

Thomas Grimm

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

Greg Johnson

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

Kevin Krupitzer

Kevin discovered his passion for filmmaking in Detroit, Michigan. While shooting award winning…more

Gail Leibowitz

Gail has always been an avid music fan and when she saw the Playing for Change band
she couldn’t…more

Andrew Luce

Andrew Luce brings his experience in business relationship development, tactical marketing and…more

Laura McGuigan
Seema Tikare

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

Melissa Torre
LisaBeth Weber

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

Raan Williams

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

Tom Wingert

Tom is a partnership and strategic development specialist for nonprofits and social enterprise.…more

Thea Karki
Director, Finance and Programs

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

Elizabeth Holler Hunter
Executive Director

Elizabeth began working with the Foundation in January 2010 as a consultant helping the team…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 at age 2…more

Fernanda Hang
Program and Outreach Assistant

Fernanda Hang is from Brusque, Santa Catarina, Brazil. She graduated with a degree in advertising…more

Jeremy Elliott
PFC Day Coordinator

Ever fascinated by cultural identity and personal expression, Jeremy Elliott spent a…more

Angelica Martinez

Angelica has always had a passion for the arts. She received her bachelor's degree in Theatre…more

Katy Sanders

Driven by human rights and a desire to better the human experience, Katy Sanders earned a BA in…more

Mohammed Alidu
Founder and Creative Director, Bizung School of Music & Dance
William Aura
Archivist / Asian Program Coordinator

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

François Viguié
Coordinator, African music programs

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

Margie Balter

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

Stacie Freasier

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

Becky Jungmann