An extraordinary program, Music in Common (MiC), takes on particular significance in light of recent events in the Middle East, when a video that author Salman Rushdie referred to in an NPR interview as a "disgraceful, shoddy little thing," seems to be at least in part responsible for terrible violence and death. In stark contrast, MiC's mission statement reads:
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.
Originally called FODfest (Friends of Daniel) the organization was founded by Pearl's close friend and bandmate Todd Mack in response to Pearl's tragic death in 2002. Pearl was kidnapped while working as a journalist in Pakistan, and subsequently beheaded by his captors.
Groups of students in the MiC youth program work together with industry professionals to write, record, perform, and produce a music video of an original song, participating in all aspects of the creative and multimedia production process. Their website states:
MiC Youth Programs are free educational programs that extend the FODfest concept of community building through music to youth, serving to educate, inspire, and empower junior high and high school students. MiC Youth Programs take place in local schools or community centers where FODfest concerts take place and provides an experiential education to students, teaching the essential life skills of team building, collaboration, and mutual respect.
MiC international focuses on the Middle East, and has produced music videos with groups of Arab and Israeli students working together, including this one Peace*Shalom*Salaam.
I am fortunate that the organization's founder lives in my town, and has brought the program to my son's school. For the past two weeks, a group of nine high school students have worked long hours together in an intensive process to create a song and produce a music video. I had the privilege to sit in on a group of kids discussing what they are learning. One said that in the age of the Internet, it is important to think carefully about how your message will be received by a large audience. Another reflected on the responsibility of using creativity for peace, not war.
Following the production period, there is a performance, referred to as a "FODfest community concert." Here the song and video are debuted for an audience, and musicians swap songs and jam together onstage. The Mic brochure describes these events as:
Powerful and healing experiences generating a sense of community and hope, serving as a call to action for individuals and communities to discover common ground.