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TVTP Grantee Music in Common Uses Songs to Expand Racial Understanding and Promote Non-Violence


TVTP Grant recipient Music in Common concert held in Atlanta in May 2023

It has often been said that music is a universal language. Through language, people share experiences, seek to understand others, create relationships, and find common ground. 

From that theory comes Music in Common, which received funding two years in a row from the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships’ (CP3) Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grants Program. Founded in 2005 in response to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by extremists in Pakistan shortly after 9/11, Music in Common is a nonprofit that “strengthens, empowers, and connects communities through the universal language,” according to its mission.  

“In addition to being a reporter, Danny was a talented musician who believed in the power of music to connect people,” said singer-songwriter and producer Todd Mack, who started Music in Common to carry on the work of his friend and bandmate. “In a nutshell, Music in Common programs create spaces that foster experiential learning opportunities for participants to discover their common ground.” 

CP3 funded Music in Common’s Black Legacy Project (Black LP) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. A self-described “musical celebration of Black history to advance racial solidarity, equity, and belonging,” Music in Common designed the project to promote social cohesion and integration among Americans across religious, cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and sexual orientation backgrounds and identities.  

Opportunities for Perspective 

Black LP organizers travel across the U.S. to share the experience with people from different backgrounds and perspectives. Invited artists participate by recording “present-day interpretations of songs central to the Black American experience.” The artists also compose original songs that speak to modern-day issues connected to racism. 

“In a nutshell, Music in Common programs create spaces that foster experiential learning opportunities for participants to discover their common ground.” — Todd Mack, Music in Common founder

In addition to musical writing and performances, the program incorporates community roundtables to discuss how the songs are interpreted and written. These conversations, combined with the music itself, create opportunities to understand different perspectives and share commonalities. 

In September 2021, Music in Common held its first Black LP week-long residency in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, with subsequent residencies in Atlanta, Los Angeles, the Mississippi Delta, Denver, the Arkansas Ozarks, and Boise, Idaho. The cities were selected to represent geographic diversity and because of their associations with civil rights and traditional songs. The organization filmed a docu-series based on the events, devoting one episode to each site’s event. 

To date, Black LP has produced and recorded 24 songs, with 12 appearing on their first album, released September 22, 2023. A touring band hit the road the same month to bring the Black LP Experience to communities nationwide. Videos and songs are also available on the Black Legacy Project YouTube Channel

Second CP3 TVTP Grant Expands Effort Nationwide 

Following its initial launch, Music in Common received a second TVTP grant in FY 2022 to expand Black LP to the Black LP Experience, “bringing the powerful music of the project to audiences nationwide in interactive and engaging performance events that also include document film screenings and community conversations,” according to Mack.  

The musician explained the goal is to focus on creating a meaningful dialogue and sharing these messages with new audiences. The discussions and community roundtables are the “backbone of the project,” Mack said. A roundtable participant from the program in Mississippi agreed. “We have been having some amazing conversations ... with several Clarksdale leaders and deep thinkers. It was so uplifting and challenging at the same time,” the participant shared. 

Organizers report that the program has been successful based on the amount of participation, as well as feedback from exit surveys, written testimonials, and video interviews with program participants. Musician Rob Sanzone shared that he agreed the program was transformative. “I can say for certain that I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a project where the music held so much importance and meaning. I truly am a changed person from this experience. I am so deeply grateful for how open my heart has become,” he wrote.  

Greg Bowman, a community partner in Boise, ID, expressed appreciation for the program, noting that “I am especially pleased to see Homeland Security dollars being spent on a project with such real and positive impact. I look forward to continuing the musical impact you brought to our community and to future projects." 

The CP3 TVTP grant experience has been positive for Music in Common, according to Mack. “I’d recommend the program for any organization that is considering applying,” he said.  

For those new to federal grant opportunities, the learning curve for filing and reporting requirements are worth the investment of time and effort, according to Mack. “This grant feels like the perfect match for the work and mission of Music in Common, and we’re grateful and honored to be two-time recipients.”  

The Work Continues 

TVTP grant funds support qualified applicants to develop sustainable, multidisciplinary prevention measures as well as pilot innovative approaches and identify best practices for broader implementation. During the two-year period of performance, grantees are required to complete quarterly reports and demonstrate alignment with their stated goals and implementation plans.  

“Evidence indicates that programs like these increase individual and community well-being,” David O’Leary, associate director of Grants & Innovation, said. “An increase in healthy connections and the sense of belonging can help to insulate individuals from choosing violence as a way to solve problems.”  

Music in Common plans to continue the program beyond the period of performance for the FY 2022 TVTP award, due in part to both local and national support.  

Artists who may be interested in recording or performing and community members interested in participating in roundtable discussions can sign up on the website. CP3 has administered its TVTP Grant Program since 2020, and fiscal year 2024 application information is anticipated to be released in March 2024. 

Last Updated: 03/14/2024
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