Last Tuesday, October 27th, was a special day for the Playing For Change Band as the Band descended upon the Philadelphia School (K-8), in, of all places, Philadelphia. Mark Johnson was invited to speak to the school about the Playing for Change project and the Foundation. However, when the Band heard that Mark was speaking at an elementary school and his two nieces (Anna and Claire) attended the school they all volunteered to come to the school and play a few songs for the teachers and students. Mark was also asked to speak to Anna and Claire’s individual music classes, and was assisted by 4 Playing for Change Band members; Louis Mhlanga (Zimbabwe), Mermans Kenkosenki (Congo), Jason Tamba (Congo), and Mohammed Alidu (Ghana). The first class, the second graders, listened to the musicians play some of their traditional music, and then joined in playing with their own xylophones. As Mermans Kenkosenki said after the class, along with music, the smiles and laughter of children is universal.
Next, the four musicians spoke and played for the kindergarten class. At the end of the class when Mohammed Alidu was going to teach the children a traditional song from Ghana, the music teacher asked the children if they knew a song that they could sing to Mohammed, and, to everyone’s surprise, they started singing a song in one of Ghana’s native languages. It was clear that both the students and the musicians were both learning and sharing that day.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, the rest of the Playing for Change Band showed up at the school for the concert. The rest of the musicians showed up during a third grade gym class, and it wasn’t difficult to convince Clarence Bekker, Mohammed Alidu, and Mermans Kenkosenki to play soccer with the children. Grandpa Elliott had other plans. Grandpa picked up a basketball and started shooting the ball. It clearly was not the first time Grandpa had picked up a basketball. After being told where the basket was, Grandpa took several free throws, and to everyone’s surprise (except for Grandpa) he made a shot. Not two shots later, Grandpa made his second shot!! I don’t think the Playing for Change family will ever be surprised of what Grandpa Elliott is capable of.
After gym class, the students, teachers, and administration poured into the gymnasium for the concert. It was amazing to see groups of children staring in awe of Grandpa and the other musicians they recognized from the Playing for Change videos. During the Band’s performance of Stand by Me, and to the amazement of several teachers standing around, you could see children singing the lyrics and holding each other arm and arm. The grand finale came when Clarence Bekker treated the students to a searing tribute to Michael Jackson with his rendition of Billie Jean. Several students (with great dance moves) came up and danced with Clarence, and by the end the entire audience was up singing and dancing.
It truly was a remarkable day, and reminds all of us in the Playing for Change family what this project is all about…connecting ALL people of the world through music..it certainly connects old and young!
Peace and One Love,
Playing for Change grew from a humble dream to make the world a little brighter, and now supports musicians all over the world. For only $5 a month, become a Member and enjoy the entire PFC music catalogue, receive discounts in our shop, and know 20% of your Membership is donated directly to the Playing for Change Foundation.