Mark Johnson is a Grammy award-winning producer/engineer and award-winning film director. For the past 20 years, Mark has worked with some of the most renowned producers in the music, film, and television industries,and with such musical artists as Keith Richards, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Bono, Jimmy Buffett, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’, Sara Bareilles, Los Lobos, Andrés Calamaro, Carlos Vives, and many more. In 2005, he earned a “Contemporary Blues Album of the Year” Grammy as producer/engineer of the Keb’ Mo’ album Keep It Simple. In hopes of showcasing musical talent found on the streets, Johnson parlayed his musical knowledge and technical skills to turn his vision into what is now known as Playing For Change. Mark has recorded and filmed music around the world in over 45 countries and has dedicated his life to connecting the world through music.
Playing For Change (www.playingforchange.com) is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. Mark’s vision became an effort to share this truth with the world.
It all began about fifteen years ago when Mark and his PFC Co-Founder, Whitney Kroenke, assembled a group of like-minded people with cameras and a mobile recording studio and embarked on a journey across the globe. Mark and the team created an innovative mobile technique for recording and filming musicians live outside all around the world and edited their performances together, creating Songs Around The World videos. After accumulating over 85 million views on YouTube, the first video, “Stand By Me,” laid the foundation for the best selling CD/DVD set, Playing For Change: Songs Around The World. This CD/DVD debuted at #10 on Billboard’s Pop Chart in April of 2009. Two years later, Playing For Change released their second album, PFC2: Songs Around The World, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s World Music Charts.
Mark’s first documentary film, Playing For Change: A Cinematic Discovery of Street Musicians, won honors at several international film festivals and his following project, Playing For Change: Peace Through Music, received awards and critical praise at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Mark also sits on the Board of Directors for the Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created in 2007 in order to bring music education to children in communities the team had visited while traveling. His resume as a keynote speaker includes the United Nations, TED Global, the University of Michigan’s Martin Luther King Day Celebration, and the World Economic Forum in Davos as well as the Million Dollar Round Table. He has also been a featured guest on The Colbert Report, Tavis Smiley, Bill Moyer’s Journal, and CNN Heroes. Such icons as Norman Lear, Howard Schultz, Chris Blackwell, and Keith Richards have all supported Playing For Change and the PFC movement continues to grow all over the world, one heart and one song at a time.