Davis Project Winner Creates Summer of "Musical Peace"

September 16, 2015

This summer, Davis Project for Peace winner Maria Massucco (Bienen ’15) designed a grassroots project that addressed peace in her home state of North Carolina. Read about her Musical Peace Summer Camp in her own words, and hear from her at our Davis Projects for Peace info session on October 22 at 4:00 PM. 

Campers with Massucco

Music and arts, strange as it may sound, are not peaceful by nature. They are rebellious and provocative. In addition, access to music and arts education is in no way equal and universally available. Yet the language of music is an equalizer and knowledge of music history is a perfect way to understand cultural change and union.

The Musical Peace project took the form of a month-long summer day camp, free of charge, offered to 25 campers between the ages of 12 and 15, all from Wilkes County, NC. My project aimed to involve children in the entire process of peace by taking them on a four-week artistic journey. This project was designed to provide artistic instruction in a region largely devoid of accessible arts education, to foster a supportive and morally upright learning environment for kids at a crucial point in their personality development, and to expose underprivileged young people to the artistic environment and opportunities of their home state.

I secured a community center for our camp and developed a staff of instructors, mostly members of the community, to teach percussion, music theory, music history lessons, voice classes, drama, visual arts, basic strings, group chanting, yoga, and Zumba. The classes and lessons proved hugely successful and resulted in an astounding final performance during which even the shyest campers performed solo songs, raps, and monologues.

The average camper was from a low-income household, usually left home alone unoccupied for the summer months, and had a strong interest in music and the arts with little or no access to musical instruction. The families of the campers have also greatly benefitted from the project, as reported by several parents, in that their children have become interested in their educations, curious about the possibility or pursuing music lessons, and far more engaged and positive in general.

Girls at camp practice the pianoAs one parent remarked upon picking her camper up on the last day, “I can’t believe what’s happened in this one month. Usually when I get home from work she’s on the couch with TV blasting and I’m too tired to do anything about it.

“But for the last few weeks I’ve come home to her plunking around on a fake piano she drew on the front step, singing along under her breath. Now she tells me she needs a job so she can save for a real keyboard. It’s not just the new love music that makes me so thrilled, it’s this new work ethic and the idea of earning the tools to achieve what you love.”

The most frequently asked question of camp was whether or not there would be a next year. I am in conversation with local individuals and community arts groups about the creation of a permanent annual camp based on this summer’s version.


The Davis Projects for Peace program awards a $10,000 grant that enables undergraduates around the country to design grassroots “projects for peace” that use a summer to address global social issues. The program is run through the University of California-Davis. At Northwestern, the Buffett Institute and the Office of Fellowships work together to facilitate the grant process. Applications are due in January each year.

If you have questions about the Davis Project for Peace, email Patrick Eccles at patrick.eccles@northwestern.edu.

Undergraduate Students