Band brings inspirational message to stage

OSU alum works with Playing for Change band

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If bringing together such a diverse group of musicians from around the world virtually, through the magic of modern recording technology, was such a success, then doing so physically should prove equally inspiring.

This was the impetus for the formation of the Playing for Change band, a collection of musicians who were featured in the award-winning PBS documentary Playing for Change: Peace Through Music.

The band formed for a performance at a Playing for Change Foundation event, and made its public debut at the 2009 SXSW music festival.

“Our first thought was ‘Why don’t we bring a live representation of the film to people?’” Raan Williams, partner in Playing for Change with producer Mark Johnson, told The Beat. “After the first show, which was so good, we decided to see if we could take it on the road.

“We were able to capture a certain inspirational feeling in the film and this brings that same feeling to live audiences.”

Williams, a 1997 graduate of Ohio State University, was a business manager in the entertainment industry working with Johnson, also his one-time roommate, when the concept to travel the world recording musicians and layering their performances together was hatched.

He worked with Johnson throughout the process of making the documentary. He now serves as manager for the band and sits on the board of the PFC Foundation, which works to raise funds to build music schools around the globe.

While there were some logistical issues in getting musicians from around the globe together, Williams said the artistic part of creating a PFC band was easy.

“You find people are not that different when they have music at their core,” he said. “There was a real family vibe from the start.”

The group includes a core of the musicians from the film, including “fan favorite” Grandpa Elliott from New Orleans, plus a rotating cast of musicians who have participated in PFC projects. The band has played more than 100 shows worldwide, including joining the likes of Ziggy Marley and Jackson Browne.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Williams.

 

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