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.

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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

Mark Johnson
Founder, Ex-Officio

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

Whitney Kroenke

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

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

Greg Johnson

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

Alan Eccel

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

Gail Leibowitz

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

Seema Tikare

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

Ella Windsor

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

John A. McKenna
Executive Director

John A. McKenna serves Playing For Change Foundation with the shared vision that music... 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

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

William Aura
Archivist / Asian Program Coordinator

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

Pete Kronowitt
Director of Business Development

Pete always had one of those cheap transistor radios attached to his ear as a small child.... more

François Viguié
Coordinator, African Music Programs

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

Dr. Craig Woodson
World Music Education Consultant

Dr. Craig Woodson is an educator, author, musician, consultant, and musical instrument... 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 Coordinator

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

Cherry Yufei Chen
Program Intern

Cherry started to serve Playing For Change Foundation as an intern in Fall 2016. She has a... more

Khadejhia Kassenbrock

Originally from Oakland, California, Khadejhia grew up with a love for music, but her... more

Mohammed Alidu
Co-Founder, Artistic Director & Percussion Teacher

Mohammed Alidu was born and raised in Tamale, into the Bizung lineage of talking drum... more

Alex Buer
Music Teacher, Trumpet

Alex is a talented musician and teacher who plays the trumpet and also leads the army... more

Afeku "Frank" Komla
Keyboard and Theory Teacher

Frank is an Ewe man who has lived in Tamale for three years. In his youth, Frank started... more

Ahmed Abdul-Samed
Gonje Teacher

Abdul-Samed is a gonje musician, first learning this traditional horse-hair violin as a... more

Asiedu Charles
Drum Teacher

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

Suali Seidu
Drum & Dance Teacher

Suali teaches percussion and dance at the Bizung School. His natural authority and... more

Adam “Dallah" Abduli

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

Ibrahim Samuel

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

Benedict Ali Kolaan
Xylophone Teacher

Benedict Ali Kolaan is a music teacher and ethnomusicologist specializing in African... more

Prince Mahama
Guitar Teacher

Prince Mahama is something of a living legend in Northern Ghana. During the 1980s he was... more

Mahamadou Diabaté
Creative Director and Percussion Teacher

Mahamadou Diabaté is a Malian musician and descendant of a griot family that has played... more

Seydou Dembelé
Head Administrator

Seydou is an English teacher and school administrator in Bamako, Mali. He began working... more

Oumou Mariko
Dance Teacher

Oumou is a singer and a dancer living in Bamako, and has recently been performing and... more

Seydou Koné
Percussion Teacher

Seydou Koné is a master djembé player who lives in a village located 14 km from Kirina.... more

Ladji Diabaté
Kora Teacher

Ladji Diabaté is a renowned kora player and teacher in Mali. He is the brother of Toumani... more

Mountaga Sissoko
Tama & N'goni Teacher

Mountaga Sissoko is a Malian musician born in Bamako in 1966. He is the son of Bazoumana... more

Karim Diabaté
Percussion Leader

Karim Diabaté is a Master "Djembéfola" and leader of Kirina's percussion band that lays... more

Karounga Diabaté
Balafon Teacher

Karounga is the son of Keletigui Diabaté, one of the greatest balafon (traditional... more

Jean Diarrah
French Teacher

French teacher and assistant for the school's recently launched educational support... more

Bagoré Sissoko
Sound Engineer and Editor

Bagoré aka Mande Follo is an artist, musician and sound engineer from Bamako, Mali. He... more

Ishor Bajracharya

Ishor Bajracharya has been involved with the Playing for Change family since Mark Johnson... more

Nitesh Shrestha
Music Teacher

Nitesh has been teaching guitar and vocals at the Musica Music Institute since 2013. He is... more

Dinesh Nakarmi
Music Teacher

Dinesh has been a music teacher at the Musica Music Institute since 2005. Dinesh has... more

Shilu Joshi
Music Teacher

Shilu has been teaching music at the Musica Music Institute since 2012. She has a masters... more

Dibin Shakya
Music Teacher

Dibin has been teaching music at the Musica Music Institute since 2013. He has been a... more

Manesh Nakarmi
Music Teacher

Manesh is one of the founders of the Musica Music Institute in 2004. He is proficient in... more

Ashim Maharjan
Drum Teacher

Ashim has been teaching drums at the Musica Music Institute since 2012. He has performed... more

Nanda Kulu
Founder, Mitrata Nepal

Nanda Kulu has been helping underprivileged children and orphans for over 15 years. Her... more

Rameshowr Maharjan
Percussion Teacher

Master percussionist Rameshowr comes from a deep-rooted musical family. Well loved by his... more

Kiran Nepali
Sarangi Teacher

Kiran plays sarangi for the renowned group Kutumba. He teaches disadvantaged kids at the... more

Roberta Paula e Silva
Fundraising and outreach manager

Roberta started on the PFC Brazil team in 2014 as a volunteer and now that the Cajuru... more

Virginia Martins
Head Administrator

Virginia has been with PFC since the beginning of the Cajuru Music Program. She holds a... more

Cesar Augusto Crepaldi
Music Teacher & Educational Supervisor

Cesar has been a professional musician since 1990. He plays a variety of instruments... more

Leandro Ramos
English Teacher

Born in Curitiba, Leandro has a degree in Music from the University of Parana and... more

Ezequiel Tuyishime

Ezequiel works as a Maths teacher at Star School. He administrates and assists the music... more

Emmanuel Ndayizeye
Traditional Dance and Drumming Teacher

Emmanuel is a wonderful teacher and a skilled artist. Born in Kigali, he directs the... more

Robert Niyikiza
Music teacher

Robert was born in Kigali to a musical family and started to play music at a very early... more

Emmanuel Ntwari
Sports Educator

Emmanuel is a sports educator specialized in volley ball and soccer. more

Geraldine "Gigi" Nemrod
Program Co-Founder

A musician since the age of eight, Gigi arrived in Bangkok from France in 2009 and first... more

Siriporn "Amm" Pomwong
Program Co-Founder

After realizing that she loved music at an early age, Amm began learning guitar at the... more

Chartmongkol "Heart" Sinwon
Music & Vocal Teacher

Heart started playing music at the age of 9. He started with drums but at that time he... more

Pitawat "Aum" Supamit
Guitar Teacher

Aum started to learn music when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Bansomdejchaopraya... more

Tuhin Asad
Music teacher - Program administrator

Tuhin is a singer and guitar player from Mirpur, Dakah, Bangladesh. He has been our main... more

Rakib Chowdhury
Keyboard teacher

Rakib is a keyboard player who assists our main teacher Tuhin Asad and provides elementary... more

Poppy Tsira

Poppy is an actress and teacher from Gugulethu, South Africa, who administrates our... more

John Ntshibilikwana
Saxophone Teacher

John is from Gugulethu and has been a respected musician in the area over the past 40... more


Paul is our marimba teacher at the Imvula Music Program more

Dance teacher

Anele is a talented professional dancer who masters different types of dances and has been... more

Duke Norman
Music theory and saxophone teacher

Duke is a musician and a graphic artist from Guguletu who like our other teacher John... 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