In today’s world, music is a much needed key tool for transformation on the planet, ushering in a time of harmony in our new co-created world. We are witnessing more and more musicians becoming activists, or as some say “artivists” — performers who are becoming reformers.

The transformation from performer to reformer involves four key paradigm shifts:

  1. A performer plays an instrument; a reformer becomes an instrument.
  2. A performer gets applause; a reformer gives applause.
  3. A performer uses talent to be a success; a reformer uses talent to make a difference.
  4. A performer entertains an audience; a reformer transforms a community and even the world.
  5. In the movie Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama, His Holiness is asked what we can do to create peace. With a huge smile on his face, the Dalai Lama says: “More music festivals.”

As an artivist myself, I have been deeply transformed by the process of working in other countries and with other cultures such as Iraq, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. For years, I was a go-getter, who became a go-giver.  When I went to Iraq in 2007 to lead a drum circle training for Kurds and Arabs, I was touched at the core of my being by the powerful connections created through music. (

There is a growing trend of performers becoming reformers as evident in the influx of performers who use music to awaken hearts, unify audiences, communicate a message of hope and empower survivors of violence.  Just think of Bono, from the rock group U2. He was awarded the distinction “Man of Peace” by the Nobel Laureates in 2008, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and has worked to raise awareness about global poverty for more than two decades.

In an act of musical bravery, Kristina Sophia and Cameron Powers, from Musical Missions of Peace (, sang Iraqi love songs on the streets of Baghdad at the start of the American occupation in 2003.  One of their most amazing experiences was literally singing their way across the Iraqi border, where guards were so moved by their renditions of Arabic love songs that they allowed them to enter the country without visas. Talk about the global passport of music!

Afghani singer and songwriter Farhad Darya, a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations, is another reformer. He has been uniting audiences, raising money for orphans, creating education for street children and singing in places of suffering.  In 2010, he created a concert for fifteen thousand Afghani women and girls at a former Taliban headquarters, where many people, especially women, had been executed. In his song “Brother,” he says “sing along with me; without the formality of languages, just like the bird canary.”

Do you want to make a difference through music? Here are some ways to orchestrate change in your community:

1.  Sing to the Earth

Go on a hike or walk and take a moment to offer music to your favorite part of nature. There may be a nature song you learned as a child at summer camp. I still remember singing, “I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, I love the flowers, I love the daffodils, boom de a da, boom de a da.” Your nature song might even be a lyric of a Beatles song, like “Here Comes the Sun.” Or you can make up your own chant and offer it outside in nature to your favorite nature element. Sometimes if you listen very carefully, nature will teach you its own song.

2. Random Acts of Music

When you find yourself in a situation that could use an energy change, consider toning in the space, singing, chanting, or using an instrument to create a new song. Consider getting a small drum or flute to fit in your hiking pack. Surprise a group of strangers by playing some music for them wherever you go. I carry a small Native American flute in my purse or hiking bag and a small drum in my car for these random moments

3. Become a Reformer

Would you like to share music with the world?  Are you inspired to lead? If so, you may want to create a chanting circle, become trained in facilitating a drum circle or form a sound-healing group. Are you inspired to create sound as an offering to friends in need of healing? Is there a way you can weave more music into your work, bringing specifically selected music into the teacher’s lounge or some other creative way to infuse music into the daily rhythms of work? Think of your own special way to orchestrate change with music.

Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC is an author, music therapist, and founder of UpBeat Drum Circles.  Her new book, Music Medicine (Sounds True, August, 2012) includes more than 40 guided practices and 50 audio tracks of healing music.

Edited by Jeff Newman