In June of 2013, a collection of teachers, students, former students, and parents from Moorlands Elementary School in Kenmore Washington came together to present “With My Own Two Hands – A Musical Celebration of Peace and Community.” The evening was inspired by the “Playing for Change” movement and featured everything from a student choir to a high school rock band. It was an uplifting evening of music that inspired some of the performers to look for more opportunities to create a little “peace through music.”
Nearly two years later, that effort continues in the form a group known as “For Pete’s Sake” (a name chosen to honor Pete Seeger shortly after his passing in January, 2014). For Pete’s Sake isn’t as much a band as it is a loose, multi-generational collection of musicians (everyone from high school students to retired teachers) coming together to help achieve a little peace – for themselves, their community and the world – through music. None of its members are full-time musicians and most have never played music professionally. Though a “core” group of musicians exists, others come and go depending on availability. And while For Pete’s Sake periodically appears at various community events (the 2014 Washington State Fair and this upcoming Summer’s 35th Annual Seattle Peace Concerts), the majority of their performances are focused on raising awareness and funds for the Playing for Change Foundation.
Their latest performance was a “Peace Through Music” concert held on April 4th, 2015, at the Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirkland, Washington, and sponsored by the Church’s Social Justice Committee. The evening’s performance included an eclectic mix of 18 songs that represented the diverse musical backgrounds, interests, and ages of For Pete’s Sake’s members. The audience was treated to songs from artists dating back to the sixties and early seventies (Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, The Grateful Dead and more), the eighties and nineties (U2, Elvis Costello) and newer artists (G. Love and Special Sauce, Imagine Dragons, Jack Johnson, Old Crow Medicine Show, among others). The challenge for the group is to prepare an enjoyable night of music with limited rehearsal time due to busy schedules outside of the “band” (none of the rehearsals leading up to the performance included all ten members who would eventually share the stage on the evening of the concert). But For Pete’s Sake isn’t focused on creating musical perfection. The focus is on creating positive energy that comes from playing music for the sake of “peace” and getting the audience to join the fun by clapping and singing along (the lyrics to each song are projected behind the band to encourage as much audience participation as possible). While admission to the concert was free, those in attendance donated more than $750 to the Playing for Change Foundation. This was the second consecutive year that For Pete’s Sake has been invited to perform at the church and promises to remain an annual event.
What’s next for For Pete’s Sake? Beyond the previously mentioned appearance at the Seattle Peace Concerts, this September, members of For Pete’s Sake will be organizing what has become another regular fundraising event – “Positive Vibrations are Brewing” – as part of the International Playing for Change Day. The event takes place at the 192 Brewing Company’s Lake Trail Beer Garden in Kenmore, WA. These outdoor events include an entire afternoon of live music by For Pete’s Sake as well other local musicians, and usually includes some spontaneous collaboration between the various performers.
By Bob Graff