Music and the Mobilization of Nonviolence: Conflict Skills/Peacemaking Facilitation Activity

Designed by Yong June Kim


Art is a powerful medium to de-escalate the tension of conflict when it is utilized at an appropriate time. Especially, music could bring strong emotional connectivity among people worldwide; it has been constantly used as a simple but strong tool to overcome social oppression and to strengthen the voice of the public with a nonviolent approach. This activity, Music and the Mobilization of Nonviolence, aims to teach how music could greatly impact emotional connectivity and de-escalation of conflict and contribute to a significant nonviolent movement against conflicts we face in our society. The activity was fully conducted online; due to this condition, the online meeting software Zoom was the main tool to proceed with the activity. Since Zoom provided an interactive whiteboard and screen-sharing option which enable the participants to be simultaneously engaged throughout the activity, it was sufficient to facilitate the exchange of emotions and ideas that are stimulated from the session. The resources for this activity are gathered based on self-research; one song deeply connected to social conflicts is selected per genre: Blues, Gospel, Rock, Hip-hop, Classic, Grassroot music, etc.

This type of education could be effectively utilized in any group regardless of age or community level when it is conducted in an informal setting since it is based on experiential learning; however, it could be especially practical for students at the K-12 level. As music itself contains entertaining elements, it could help the students maintain their focus and be fully engaged by actively listening and watching music videos during the activity. The debriefing questions are also based on their emotions and feelings that are directly reflected by the musical contents; this simple discussion could make them feel comfortable and safe to learn the key points of this activity that music itself could connect people and contribute to peacebuilding processes in the long term perspective. Furthermore, they will have the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the backgrounds of musical genres and pieces that they are used to listen but are not actually aware of the hidden stories they embody.


  • Activity Time Duration: 45-60 minutes, depending on the number of songs an educator would like to use.
    • 3 min: Brief introduction and learning objectives
    • 10 min: introduction of a particular genre (it would be helpful to go through research or ask for support from those who have musical expertise during the preparation.)
    • 10 min: Music introduction, listening (4-5 min) and debriefing (5 min) activities #1
    • 10 min: Music introduction, listening (4-5 min) and debriefing (5 min) activities #2
    • 10 min: Music introduction, listening (4-5 min) and debriefing (5 min) activities #3
    • 10-15 min: Review of the activity, simple quiz activities about the music based on debriefing
  • Orientation of the Session: The educator may have multiple sessions, introducing one genre for each session. The first session, however, needs to introduce the overall learning point, which is the music’s impact on peacebuilding and the mobilization of the nonviolence movement in society. Guiding the main theme at the beginning session will help both educators and students to be consistent with understanding the music’s role in the strategic peacebuilding process while engaging in the activity throughout the sessions. For example, sessions could be categorized like the example below:
    • Session 1: Introduction_How Music Helps Strategic Peacebuilding?
    • Session 2: Understanding the Origin of Blues Through Learning the Black History
    • Session 3: Learning Gospel through Analyzing Amazing Grace
    • Session 4: How did Hip-hop Become a Powerful Medium for Raising Voices for Social Issues
    • Session 5: Rock for Peace
  • Each session will start by introducing two to three songs that are relevant to the genre. The educator may briefly introduce the background of the songs and share the lyrics with the participants to help them have a better understanding of the contexts. The facilitator could also have a simple quiz about the music so that the participants can guess the information about the music, providing much more interaction during the session.
  • After appreciating those musical pieces, the educator can move into a debriefing session. When it is conducted online, shared whiteboard and brainstorming programs  through Zoom or Mural could be utilized to have students engaged in the activity. When it is conducted in person, however, the educator may use a large size of paper so that the participants could simultaneously add their thoughts of impression and engaged emotions to the paper. The Questions after listening to the musical pieces could be like below:
    • Let’s share your thoughts; what was the most impressive part for you when thinking of peacebuilding, nonviolence, and conflict?
    • What were the implications of the lyrics, rhythms, melodies?
    • Are there any other elements that seem powerful for the nonviolent process? Why?
    • If you want to introduce other songs you particularly find relevant, please share and explain why it is connected to the topic.


The objective is to connect music with peacebuilding and the nonviolence movement by emphasizing its contribution to emotional connectivity between groups, individuals, and communities. Through such experiential learning processes utilizing basic senses that are based on auditory, visionary, and somatic senses, it aims to help students to maintain their interest in learning in non-academic approaches. Also, this activity could help the students have better accessibility to understanding past and current major conflicts that are occurring worldwide by appreciating the musical pieces that directly reflect them. By doing so, it could facilitate the process of conscientization (Freire, 1970), which enables the participants to understand the social issues that could be directly related to themselves in a critical manner. The contents illustrated below could be the main learning objectives:

Resources Used for the Activity

Musical pieces that are used for the activity could various depending on the educator’s preferences or participants’ suggestions through discussion at the beginning of the session:

  1. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Seabury Press.
  2. B.   Shank, M., & Schirch, L. (2008). Strategic Arts-Based Peacebuilding. Peace & Change, 33(2), 217–242.
  3. 12 years a slave – choir song – ”roll jordan roll” 2013
  4. President Obama Sings Amazing Grace (C-SPAN)
  5. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message (Official Video)
  6. U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
  7. ‘Stop the war in Ukraine’: Orchestra plays national anthem in central Kyiv as Russians advance
  8. [경향신문]19차 촛불집회 광화문에 울려퍼진 ‘임을 위한 행진곡’

*This activity was designed by Yong June Kim, an undergraduate student at George Mason University’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, based on Dr. Arthur Romano’s Graduate Course (CONF 695) “Peace and Conflict Resolution Pedagogy” in Fall 2022. 

Sing for Success

“When you do what you love, things can happen for you.” When you visit the blog for the PS22 Chorus, this quote is displayed on the headline and it could not ring more true than with this amazing group of students. The PS22 Chorus was started by Greg Breinberg in Graniteville, Staten Island, New York. “Mr. B,” as his students refer to him, arrived at Pubic School 22 in 1999 after being laid off from his previous job as a music teacher. When he arrived at PS22, he was the second grade teacher however, he persuaded the principle of PS22 to let him to teach music again as well as start a chorus for the students in 2000.

Starting any type of school arts program in the year 2000 was a very risky move. In the 21st century, our schools are experiencing budget cuts from every angle and, more likely than not, arts programs are the first ones to get the axe. Too many of our politicians and policy makers fail to see the amazing difference art can make in a student’s life. Before Mr. B was given the opportunity to teach music again, he would play music in all of his classes in order to keep the students engaged in the class and to encourage their participation.

The PS22 Chorus has provided all of its members, past and present, with an amazing opportunity that they may not have had anywhere else. Many of the students that are a part of this chorus come from broken homes where their parents neglect them and they do not have a bright future to look towards. PS22 Chorus gives these students an opportunity to not only escape from the troubles they are having at home, but a chance to actually reflect on their experiences and emotions so they can grow from them. Music provides these children with an emotional outlet that they would not have been able to get anywhere else.

Something very unique about the PS22 Chorus versus other elementary school music programs is that each student is given the chance to perform a solo. The group performs a variety of songs every year highlighting each student’s strength as a singer while the rest of the group performs background vocals and provides harmonies. By allowing different students the chance to shine, the students are able to see each other as equals instead of one being better than the other. Once all the students realize that they all have an amazing gift to give, difference based on race, ethnicity, gender, height, weight and many other things can finally be overlooked and the students can unite to embrace their love of music and build strong relationships with one another that can last into the future.

Too many times the arts are forgotten. Statistics have proven that when students receive a more well rounded educational experience that includes the arts, physical activity and other alternative methods of learning, they excel in their studies. Incorporating arts into the classroom can be done very simply. Like Mr. B, you can play music as your students enter the classroom each day so the students are engaged with what you and the class from the beginning of the period. Also, providing them the time during the class to reflect on the song and what emotions it brought to light for them can help them process hardships or happiness they may be experiencing in their lives outside of the classroom.

Another way to successfully incorporate music into the classroom in order to promote critical thought and peace would be using music to enhance the teaching of subjects such as history, literature, science or math. You can enrich your history and literature lesson plans by connecting the topics you are discussing with the music of the culture from which it came. With math and science, you can help your students connect to the material more so, absorb it and fully understand it through the use of song. If you are able to stimulate your student’s mind through the use of song, they are more likely to engage with you and the rest of the class and therefore have a full educational experience.

In a time where the arts were being cast aside and looked down upon, Mr. B knew how important they were to his students’ happiness and success. Thinking about a world where are youth are denied the right to express their creativity in our school systems is absolutely heart breaking. If we want our youth to grow up to be full adults, ones who not only have the critical thinking and analysis abilities necessary to be successful members of the work force, but emotional beings who are able to express themselves and connect with peers on a deeper level in order to form strong community bonds, we must continue to promote an educational experience that incorporates the arts.