'Music For Peace' Panel Sends Message of Hope at IndieCon Music Conference

By Rik Palieri 071110-RikPalieri.jpg Rik Palieri at the IndieCon 'Music for Peace' panel. Photo: Econosmith

IndieCon, an independent music conference produced by Vermont nonprofit Big Heavy World, gathered a group of regional musicians and peace activists together in Burlington on November 10 to talk and sing out a message of hope.

Speaker Joseph Gainza, leader of Vermont's American Friends Service Committee, kicked off the two hour long session at Contois Auditorium in City Hall, giving a personal glimpse into the political pulse of the Green Mountains. Joseph's comments were on the Iraq war, global warming, eco-politics and the search for justice and freedom during these difficult times. He introduced the theme of the event and set the tone for the panel as it continued with other speakers.

Echoing Joseph's suggestion to follow the old maximum, "Think globally / Act locally," speaker Kenric Kite talked about his project, the Vermont Peace Song contest. Kenric explained how the simple idea of encouraging ordinary people to compose peace songs is catching on. The contest is an example of how people can do something on a local level that creates a ripple across the state, inspiring more people to use their voices, music and songs as a tool for building peace.

Along with the speakers, IndieCon also gathered some leading musician-activists from the northeast who gave the audience a bird's eye view of awareness-raising via music in other regions.

First Mel & Vinnie from New York's Hudson Valley told of their long-time involvement with 'Clearwater' and their work with folk singing legend Pete Seeger, helping to clean up the Hudson River. Mel went into detail of how what was once thought an impossible dream, swimming in the Hudson, is now a reality, all due to the many hands and minds of the thousands of volunteers. "Music has always been a big part of our organization, from our fundraising concerts and festivals to the core of the little monthly meetings that take place up and down the Hudson river. This kind of community volunteering does not end at the banks of the Hudson, it flows on to becomes a part of one's life." Mel then talked about their recent trip to New Orleans, bringing a van load of free musical instruments to the survivors of hurricane Katrina. All of Mel's story was then brought to life with a short video. http://web.mac.com/maryellenhealy/iWeb/FeelGoodTour/gulf%20coast.html To learn more about their trip see www.Melandvinnie.blogspot.com

071212-peacegroup.jpg Mel, Vinnie, Michael, Ingrid, and Rik. Photo: Econosmith

Next up was Ingrid Heldt, a German-American singer-songwriter for Peace Songs, who has also been involved with Pete Seeger and the Clearwater. Ingrid told her own story of how she employs her peace songs at rallies and demonstrations and how she works with photography exhibitions based around themes of peace.

Concluding the panel was Vermont's own International Traveling Troubadour, Rik Palieri. Rik was responsible for inviting the speakers and proposing the idea of presenting a music for peace segment at this years IndieCon event. Rik, who just finished co-authoring a new book 'Music For Conflict Transformation,' shared his thoughts and visions about this important project. Rik believes, "We artists of the world are tired of the way that the politicians are trying to divide us with fear and hate. This war in Iraq is not just affecting us here in America, but it is hurting our planet. In this new book we are coming together as a global voice for peace. We artists are saying that we believe in a better world and we are saying it with our songs, our hopes and dreams."

To further that cause, Mel, Vinnie, Ingrid, Rik and Mike Meade (a singer-songwriter from New Jersey), created a song circle, picked up their instruments and engaged everyone in an hour long song swap that made the balcony of Burlington's Contois Auditorium ring out with joy!

071110-SongCircle.jpg Photo: Econosmith