Music in Common, with its global reach, is the force behind FODfest

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SHEFFIELD — Peace, salaam, shalom — however it's said, that's what Music in Common aims to practice and spread.

With music composition and performance as its main vehicles, the locally based nonprofit has, to-date, reached through its programs thousands of people in more than 200 communities across the United States, the Middle East and western regions of Asia.

Music in Common is the driving organization behind this weekend's FODfest, aka Friends of Danny Festival, created by Todd Mack and local musicians to honor his friend, the late journalist and musician, Daniel Pearl.

Pearl, who was a reporter for the North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle from 1986 to 1990, was kidnapped and killed in 2002 by terrorists in Pakistan while working on a piece about the terrorist connections of "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid for the Wall Street Journal.

After the first FODfest jam in October 2005, Mack realized he wanted to do something more through music to help people, particularly those involved in cultural conflicts, to move closer to a common sense of understanding and respect.

In a 2008 interview, Mack told The Eagle, "Whether it was Boston or Bombay, this is how (Danny) would meet people. He would jam with people and he would make friends. And that's what we're trying to do with FODfest."

That concept has evolved into a thoughtful and engaging curriculum used by Music in Common, whether to connect Jews, Christians and Muslims, or Israelis and Palestinians.

In a recent Eagle interview, Mack told The Eagle that it's the work of Music in Common, which extends farther and reaches more deeply into conflict-resolution approaches than FODfest, that he's most proud of.

Locally, regionally and internationally, Music in Common brings together musicians to stage community concerts, like FODfest, The Last Waltz Live, MiC Youth Concert series, and more. It youth initiatives include workshops and multimedia projects that take place both in schools and out-of-school time and spaces.

Since 2009, it has produced more than a half-dozen international tours in the Middle Eastern and western Asia regions for both youths and adults, which, according to the organization's website, promote "peer-to-peer diplomacy and cross-cultural ambassadorship."

For 2016, Music in Common is working on coordinating trips and programs to the West Bank region and also South Africa, in addition to continuing programming in Israel, where it also has staff.

Closer to home, Mack and local staff continue to work with schools and youth groups to create songs and videos about peace, education and tolerance. Mack said in the spring, the group hopes to stage a concert event that would showcase close to three dozen songs created from Music in Common workshops.

Additionally, Associate Director Lynnette "Lucy" Najimy helped secure grant funding to make a documentary with the decade's worth of accrued footage of Music in Common programs. The film itself is slated to be released before the end of the year.

Mack said that specifically in light of recent international conflicts, and the murders and attacks on journalists and other noncombative workers abroad, the work of peacekeeping and cross-cultural connections is crucial.

"It's important for people to take action," he said, "to be engaged, to be inspired to get involved, at whatever level they can or want to be, to work for a world that doesn't tolerate that kind of hatred or that kind of violence."

More information ...

To volunteer, donate, or to learn more about Music in Common, visit musicincommon.org or call 413-229-9939.


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