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. 

The Playing for Change Foundation: An Innovative Approach to Peace Education

The Playing for Change Foundation fosters positive social interactions among at-risk youth through music education. Students have the opportunity to learn and play music with their peers in a safe environment, establishing community and peace building for youth suffering from poverty, infectious diseases, conflicts, genocide, etc. The foundation currently has 8 schools dedicated to fulfilling this mission in Mali, Ghana, Nepal, Rwanda, and South Africa. More information about this initiative can be found on their website:

     This project can be expanded to elementary, middle and high school students in America. Many schools have had to cut their music programs due to a lack of funding for instruments, but I believe these programs can be just as important as the other essential subjects mandated in K-12 education. Playing an instrument can generally help improve students’ performance in math, in addition to introducing them to various genres and international music. It also offers a creative outlet for students to engage in, helping demote violent behavior and activities in and outside of the classroom. As a student, I recall required music education sessions in elementary school. By middle school, music lessons were no longer required, although concert band was an option. All participants were responsible for renting or purchasing their own instrument. Having free access to instruments, as demonstrated through the Playing for Change Foundation may create higher participation for students whose families are financially unable to provide them with an instrument. By increasing the number of music programs in schools, students, particularly at-risk youth have a safe space to engage in teamwork and personal growth. Learning an instrument and being creative does not only have to be an activity for small children; all age groups should be encouraged to participate in the fine arts and have the ability to do so.

     The concept of PFC does not have to be exclusive to schools. Camp counselors, Sunday school instructors, and other leaders can integrate music into their programs. It will be important for any instructor to have access to a variety of instruments, such as guitars, pianos, drum sets, xylophone, tambourines, etc. Guest instructors with a background in music should be invited to teach the students how to play the instruments. A small 20-30 minute session can be set aside for this activity during any given time of instruction. Students should be encouraged to create a song together in order to promote teamwork and to perform their song in front of their peers to boost self-confidence. Students who become passionate about learning, creating, and playing music will be likely to engage in music outside of the classroom, helping them refrain from violence when they are feeling bored or when facing a personal struggle.  

     The multiple intelligence pedagogy is relevant in peace building through music education. Some students are visual learners and may prefer to learn a song by reading the notes or studying written instructions. Others may learn by doing, i.e., watching someone else demonstrate how to play a song on their own instrument and then trying it themselves. Other students may be auditory learners, being able to pick up an instrument by ear or following spoken directions well. Regardless of how each student learns how to play their instrument, they all learn peace building, even if they are unaware of this, by working together as a team and being patient with each other’s different learning styles and pace of comprehension of new material. Students will not only leave their lessons with new music skills, they will have the skills to be more effective communicators by helping their classmates if they do not understand something. Having fun together while creating community may also be a gateway toward positive attitudes about collaboration, taking turns on instruments, and being patient as each participant learns through their own unique style.   

     Two stakeholders who would benefit from this resource are music teachers at my local high school and camp counselors for elementary and middle school-aged students. Music teachers can benefit from this resource by implementing these activities in their schools. They can collaborate with community centers or instructors at other schools to create after-school activities if there is not sufficient funding to hold a program in every institution. A camp counselor can utilize this resource by holding music sessions in addition to other daily activities. Camps usually foster the ideals of sportsmanship, teamwork, and leadership in the participating youth, so learning and creating music would be a great way to emphasize these concepts. Competitions between small groups of campers of the most creative song, as voted on by the entire group, can help promote sportsmanship. If students need assistance reading notes or finding the correct key on their instruments, other students can exemplify teamwork and leadership by helping them.