Grassroots Conflict Transformation

Music Intervention Transforms Conflict

With a more acute focus than merely effecting social change in, for example, poverty driven, socially fractured communities, music intervention youth programs focus on transforming conflict between disputing factions. Not only do these programs need to diagnose the causation of the specific conflict, conflict theory, social and group identity theory, and political science, but as well enter the realm of what is commonly called “peace education”.

Peace education, as a particularly new field, cannot be described in one, unshakable definition. Viewed as a necessity in post-conflict situations, peace education instructs in the value of peace for the individual and community. It creates ways to advocate and achieve peace via nonviolence techniques and intercultural/interreligious group dialogue and understanding in its quest for human rights and social justice.  Peace education is usually intermixed with another or various disciplines, such as feminist and historical/political education, environmentalism, health care, community work, etc. The expectations of prosocial change in peace education is measured in timelines of months, years, and decades. Please remember that peace education is truthfully a form of “decade or generational change”.

It must be understood that music intervention conflict transformation programs are a specialization within music intervention.

The following organizations are instilling music intervention youth empowerment and conflict transformation in their communities and “sister” communities glocally.

Afghanistan National Institute of Music

Afghanistan National Institute of Music provides students from Grade 4 to Grade 14 with high quality specialist music training within a general academic education to prepare them for professional careers in music and music education. Students completing Grade 12 will receive their high school certificate. Students completing the final two years will graduate with a associate diploma in music performance and music education.


American Voices Association

American Voices is one of America’s great cultural engagement and diplomacy institutions. The vast majority of our work is seen outside of the United States in nations emerging from conflict or isolation, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Lebanon. We have been presenting summer youth performing arts academies, workshops and concerts in over 110 countries around the world for over 16 years.


Cultures in Harmony

Founded in 2005 by Juilliard graduate William Harvey, Cultures in Harmony (CiH) forges connections across cultural and national barriers through the medium of music.

Through the universal language of music, our collaborative projects foster lasting relationships between American musicians from top U.S. conservatories and musicians from various other parts of the world. Projects encourage cross-cultural dialogue that improves relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world.


Face to Face Interreligious Choir Pontanima 

The choir Pontanima gathers about 55 people from Sarajevo to sing the music of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Celebrating the rich spiritual diversity of this region, Pontanima leads the way toward a culture of peace. The choir has appeared over 250 times in Bosnia-Herzegovina and throughout Europe and the United States and has been honored with several prestigious awards, including Sarajevo’s Sixth of April Award and the Common Ground Reconciliation Through the Arts Award given annually by Search for Common Ground.



Heartbeat unites Israeli and Palestinian youth musicians to build critical understanding, develop creative nonviolent tools for social change, and amplify their voices to influence the world around them.

As a positive alternative to the normalization of segregation, violence, and racism, Heartbeat creates spaces and opportunities for Palestinian and Israeli youth musicians to build critical awareness, respect, and trust while harnessing creative nonviolent tools for self-expression and social change.  Engaging in a sustained music, dialogue, and empowerment process, Heartbeat youth musicians become agents of change; harnessing the tools of creativity to imagine possibilities, ask questions, and publicly address systemic problems such as violence, oppression, and inequality — partnering to create a safe, equitable future for all.



Jeunesses Musicales International

JMI is the largest youth music NGO in the world, created in Brussels, Belgium in 1945 with the mission to “enable young people to develop through music across all boundaries”. With a vast array of activities, JMI has established four priority activity fields: Young Musicians, Young Audiences, Youth Empowerment and Youth Orchestras & Ensembles.

With member organizations currently in 45 countries and contact organizations in another 35, JMI is a global network providing opportunities for young people to engage with music. The JMI network reaches over 5 million young people aged 13-30 per year through some 36,000 activities, which embrace all styles of music, and coordinates cross-border exchange opportunities on the international level.

JMI places empowerment, with its emphasis on social inclusion and cohesion, at its core. For over 60 years, JMI has been ‘Making a Difference through Music’, using the power of music to bridge across social, geographical, racial and economic divides and creating a platform for intercultural dialogue.


The Jerusalem Youth Chorus

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus provides a space for young people from East and West Jerusalem to grow together in song and dialogue. Through the co-creation of music and the sharing of stories, the chorus seeks to empower the youth of Jerusalem to become leaders in their communities and inspire singers and listeners around the world to work for peace.


The Kako Foundation

Throughout the world, the cycle of violence and poverty is more prominent than ever. Regardless of a nation’s wealth, the most affected have been the children and the youth. In the US – one of the richest nations on the globe – 1 in 4 children live in poverty (2006 – US Census Bureau)

Since 2004, in Haiti – the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere – kidnapping of children has become a daily occurrence inadequately addressed by the authorities. Children and their families live in constant fear of being targeted. Some have even witnessed these atrocities and unwittingly perpetuate the cycle by either keeping quiet or participating as they grow older.

Haitian children have few opportunities to escape the escalating violence, intolerance and poverty. The KAKO Foundation, the first of its kind in Haiti, will provide an alternative to this endless cycle by promoting peace and tolerance through art.

It is our hope that children involved in the programs of the KAKO Foundation programs will become ambassadors for change and hope in a very troubled country.


Mitrovica Rock School

The Mitrovica Rock School restores rock music culture to the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, Kosovo. At the Mitrovica Rock School, experienced local musicians train the region’s future rock stars.

Every year, the two branches come together for summer schools in Skopje, Macedonia. The staff of the Rock School work together year round to realize our shared dream of reviving Mitrovica’s rock music tradition.


Music in Common

Music In Common, Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and educate communities through the universal language of music.

By producing free, publicly accessible concerts, school programs, and multimedia productions with an interest in underserved areas and communities where there is a history of conflict, Music in Common (MiC) provides a platform for the exchange of ideas and collaborations that can lead to positive social change.


Musicians Without Borders

Musicians without Borders is an international network organization that uses the power of music to connect communities, bridge divides and heal the wounds of war and conflict.

Music and reconciliation
Musicians without Borders initiates projects, develops methodologies and organizes concerts and international conferences on healing and reconciliation through music. Since its founding in 1999, Musicians without Borders has organized successful projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and the Middle East.

Local needs
Musicians without Borders responds to local needs and collaborates with musicians worldwide as well as with local and international cultural, development and peace and human rights organizations.

All genres
Musicians without Borders develops projects in a broad range of musical genres, from traditional choir music to Bach to The Ramones. Depending on local need, our target groups cover all generations. Our projects help strengthen cooperation across ethnic lines and build positive and inclusive individual and community identities.

Musicians Without Borders UK

Musicians without Borders UK use music to reduce the stressful effects of war and to connect people across cultural, political and religious borders for peace and positive change.

MwB UK is affiliated to the MwB International organisation founded in 1999 by Laura Hassler and a group of musicians in the Netherlands in response to the Kosovan war. Since then the network has grown with projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Uganda, Rwanda, the Middle East, the Netherlands, the USA and the UK.


Polyphony Foundation

The Polyphony Foundation believes in the power of music to spark conversations and bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel.


The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad

The mission of The Rhythm Road is to share America’s unique contribution to the world of music and to promote cross-cultural understanding and exchange among nations worldwide. Since 2005, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State have produced ten tours each year that represent American music to overseas audiences.


The Silk Road Project

Inspired by the cultural traditions of the historical Silk Road, the Silk Road Project is a catalyst promoting innovation and learning through the arts. Our vision is to connect the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe. We have a passion for education, and our goal is to inspire self-motivated learning through the arts. Our educational principles guide our work with students, educators and partner institutions. The Silk Road Project provides a gateway to greater understanding of the world through active educational programs and resources and multidisciplinary explorations of topics inspired by the Silk Road.


Sound Studies Project

Sound Studies Projects provides a professional, co-educational community of fellow artists and musicians in Kabul, Afghanistan the opportunity to convey and exchange ideas in a  constructive environment, as well as hands-on training to craft and execute these ideas.  Sound Studies Projects is also dedicated to encouraging and teaching the young artists how to independently promote their work by creating opportunities and positive exposure both for themselves and to their external community.


The Voice Project

A peace movement is an incredible thing, people coming together, mobilizing like an army, and in this case armed not with guns but with songs and something more powerful than any bullet; compassion, the strength of human will, and determination.

For over two decades war ravaged northern Uganda. It is Africa’s longest running conflict and it has spread to South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Joseph Kony’s LRA has made abducting children and forcing them to fight his chief weapon of war, even making them kill their friends and family members. Many abductees and former soldiers escape but hide in the bush, afraid to return home because of reprisals for the atrocities they were forced to commit.

The women of northern Uganda – widows, rape survivors, and former abductees have been banding together in groups to support each other and those orphaned by the war and diseases so prevalent in the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. And they are singing songs. The lyrics of “dwog paco” (come home) songs let former soldiers know that they are forgiven and that they should come back. The songs are passed by radio and word of mouth out into the bush, as far as the Sudan and DR Congo. And it’s working. Former LRA are returning and for the first time in 24 years the region has a chance at real peace.

The Voice Project is an attempt to support these incredible women and to amplify the peace movement in central Africa, and an effort to see how far a voice can carry.


West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

In 1999, Daniel Barenboim, together with the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said and by invitation of the Kunstfest Weimar, created a workshop for young musicians from Israel, Palestine and various Arab countries of the Middle East seeking to enable intercultural dialogue and to promote the experience of collaborating on a matter of common interest. Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said named the Orchestra and workshop after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s collection of poems entitled “West-Eastern Divan”, a central work for the evolution of the concept of world culture.

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