Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marianne Combs from MPR Interviews Playing for Change's Creator Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson from Playing for Change spoke after a screening of his documentary, Playing for Change, at MPR's UBS Forum on January 23rd. Marianne Combs from MPR was able to interview him about Playing for Change and its various facets. Here's what she wrote about the experience:

Building a microcosm of peace through music
Posted January 24, 2012 by Marianne Combs

Mark Johnson is bent on changing the world through music. The award winning music producer and film director is the creator of the "Playing for Change"project, in which musicians from diverse backgrounds come together to create inspiring musical recordings.

Last night I had the pleasure of talking with Johnson after a screening of his documentary "Playing for Change: Peace through Music" in MPR's UBS Forum. Johnson said the idea for the project came from a desire to break through traditional boundaries.

“There's got to be something for everybody, we can't all just be on teams. Rich, poor, black white, Christian, Muslim... we've got to be more than that -I don't believe in just that. I had a teacher who said to me "Before anyone was ever different, we were all the same - the human race. We created our differences to make sense of the world, so now we need to create our connections," because it's been blown way out of proportion. For instance, you use the word "Chinese" and you're talking about 2 billion people with one word. Who knows what they're like - but I don't think they're all just one word. And I think this project has taught me that's true - that this is a beautiful world with incredible people and no matter how many negatives they throw at us it's never going to be stronger than the positives.”

Johnson regards his Playing for Change recordings as a sort of microcosm of peace, bringing people around the world together for a common cause. The interesting things about these songs is that there's no ego - when you go to the studio, it's about "how can I make that artist or that band better" so that there's an ego involved - not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but it exists. But with these songs it's about "how can I make the planet better, how can I make the whole thing better" - they know they're just a part of something bigger. They played less and listened more Johnson has now traveled to over 35 countries filming and recording musicians, which sometimes involved trekking to some very remote areas with heavy equipment.

“In the beginning I had to use golf cart batteries to power everything, and car batteries, and then you hike up the Himalayan Mountains and find out the car battery wasn't charged. All sorts of things that come with making a documentary, but that's the joy of it, too.”

Not content with just making compelling music, Johnson is also the co-founder of the Playing for Change Foundation, which is building music schools in small towns and villages in Africa and Nepal. Johnson says he sees the schools as a source of hope and happiness for people living in otherwise challenging times. Johnson has also brought together some of the Playing for Change musicians to perform live and tour as a band.

Photo of Mark Johnson recording a musician

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Welcome, Geoffrey!

Please join us in welcoming Geoffrey Conklin as our new Education Intern!

Geoffrey graduated from the University of Minnesota – Duluth in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Theater. He recently completed an internship at the Guthrie with their education department. You may have seen Geoffrey at the Ordway before as he’s been working here since 2010 as a Floor Supervisor, Ticket Taker and Usher. Geoffrey is excited to start working on education events such as the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival and Performing Arts Classrooms from another position. Welcome Geoffrey!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Get Ready to Submit Student Work to the 2012 Festival ARTwalk!

The ARTwalk is a unique opportunity for families, schools and community organizations to highlight the visual arts achievements of young people. As a part of the Flint Hills International Children's Festival, the ARTwalk celebrates young artists’ creativity from across the region. Last year over 800 submissions from around the region were featured.

Given the ARTwalk is a non-juried exhibition; participants are encouraged to be selective in their entries. 

Entries can be submitted on a group or individual basis. All artwork must be delivered by February 27th to the Ordway. The ARTwalk will be on display May 4 through June 3, 2012 in widows and store fronts of Downtown Saint Paul Businesses and in an online virtual gallery.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

FREE Film Screening of Playing for Change and Conversation with Film's Director, Mark Johnson

The Ordway and Minnesota Public Radio invite you to a screening of the Playing for Change documentary followed by a conversation with the film's director, Mark Johnson. The conversation will be moderated by Minnesota Public Radio's Marianne Combs. 
Monday, January 23rd - FREE
6:00PM Doors open with light refreshments
6:30PM Screening beginsUBS Forum located at the top floor of MPR's St. Paul Facility 
Advance Registration is Required.
Please RSVP at to Reserve Seats

Friday, January 6, 2012

Special Offer for the Public Performance of Ronald K. Brown Evidence!


$21 tickets INCLUDES ALL FEES!

online at, by phone 651.224.4222, or in person at the Ordway Ticket Office


Not good on previously purchased tickets.
Subject to availability.

SUN, JAN 15, 7:30PM