The Carol That Never Was Sung

Laura Hassler
Laura Hassler Director & Founder Musicians without Borders

I grew up with a beautiful Christmas story called “The Carol That Never Was Sung,” written by my father– a writer, peace activist and lover of music.

My pacifist parents had left the organized church in their youth, disillusioned when it declined to oppose war, stand for social justice, and take radical risks. But they believed in the persistence of hope in dark times, and they recognized the many ways, across religions, cultures and histories, of telling stories of hope.

“The Carol That Never Was Sung” told of a song that somehow never managed to show up in time to help celebrate the birth of “the child”: each year, it had met someone who was lost, imprisoned, at war, exiled, or orphaned – and had always stopped to bring the consolation of music, and was therefore too late. “But next year”, the carol promises…

We are almost in another “next year” and those songs are more needed than ever.


FFM are really ambitious for our members and in 2018 we want to offer scholarships, bursaries and financial assistance to aspiring musicians.

Help us achieve this by visiting our sponsors below


Be careful of culture  because it can be lost

This is the chorus of Umuco (Culture), composed and performed by youth leaders and children in Rwanda.

When war comes, culture is lost. But more: when those who promote and profit from war gain power, culture is attacked and we lose our voices.

The human right to culture (Art. 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) is strongly tied to all other human rights. It is culture that lets us lift our voices, tell our stories, sing our truth.

When war has raged and culture is lost, the bringing back of culture is a radical act of peacebuilding.

Please help us bring back culture for those who are bravely turning from war to life.

In today’s global turmoil of war, injustice and climate disaster, we need to remember to hold on.

As 2017 comes to a close, we ask our supporters around the world to hold on to your hope, to your communities, and to us.

Please help us to continue our work in 2018.

The Latest from Musicians Without Borders


In the 1950s and 60s, African Americans rose up against the crippling, dehumanizing injustice of systemic inequality and racism. One of the many songs that brought people together, gave courage and kept spirits up was Eyes on the Prize. “Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” Violent repression, jail, beatings, sometimes even death did not stop that movement from holding on.In today’s global turmoil of war, injustice and climate disaster, we need to remember to hold on.We need to hold on to the knowledge that positive social change always comes from the ground up, and we are on the ground, making those changes.

We need to hold on to each other, build community around the world, encourage each other, work together, take care of each other.

We need to hold on to our vision, inspired by the values of active nonviolence and creative, inclusive music making, bringing connection, community and hope.

As 2017 comes to a close, we ask our supporters around the world to hold on to your hope, to your communities, and to us. Please help us to continue our work in 2018, keeping our eyes on the prize.

In today’s global turmoil of war, injustice and climate disaster, we need to remember to hold on.

“Love People” – 1000 children, 15 different countries, singing for peace and tolerance worldwide


“If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”Jimi Hendrix

Musicians without Borders uses the power of music to bridge divides, connect communities, and heal the wounds of war.

Our long-term commitment allows our participants the time to develop skills and talents, process grief and loss, and build bridges of reconciliation in societies divided by recent or ongoing conflict. Our professional trainers are specialized in running community music projects with people dealing with trauma, fear and isolation as a result of war and conflict.

We work closely with local musicians and organizations to build sustainable projects in response to local needs. From successful projects we develop models, methodologies and trainings to adapt for other regions.

Musicians without Borders is building a global network of musicians and music lovers who support our work with their time, energy, expertise and financial donations.


“You may be poor, you may only have a ramshackle house, you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope.”•• Nelson Mandela

Where war has raged, people need everything to return to life: food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine. But more than anything, people need hope. To reconcile, people need empathy. To heal, people need connection and community.

  • Music creates empathy, builds connection and gives hope.
  • Music crosses ethnic divides and provides neutral space to meet through shared talents and passions.
  • Community music-making is a direct and accessible tool for connecting people and engaging and mobilizing communities.
  • From drum circles to choirs to rock bands, music can be practiced by any person at her/his own level regardless of musical skills, whether in small groups or in a setting of hundreds or even thousands of people.

Mitrovica Rock School – In post-war Kosovo, aspiring young rock stars meet across divides at the Mitrovica Rock School, where it’s all about the music.

Palestine Community Music – Training youth and young professionals to bring music to marginalized children in West Bank refugee camps, villages, schools, hospitals and orphanages.

Rwanda Youth Music – Introducing music therapy, training and community music activities to empower youth and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Community Music & Health (Uganda) – Training youth leaders to use music to address the effects of HIV in young people.

Music Bridge – Bridging divides in Northern Ireland with community music training and activities.

Welcome Notes (The Netherlands) – Bringing comfort, solidarity and hope to war refugees through music.

Soy Música (El Salvador) – Together with Salvadoran music teachers and community leaders, we share tools to provide at-risk children with experiences of safety, inclusion, creativity and joy.

Be empathy. Be hope.

We drove out of the crammed city, past polluted rivers, on dirt roads through dried-out palm forests, to a small school in the woods. Gang territory.

A few weeks ago, I traveled with one of our trainers through El Salvador to plan a project with UNICEF: strengthening children’s resilience in a country that has suffered from war and its successor—gang and criminal violence—for many decades.

Against a hopeless context—dislocation, poverty, decades of unprocessed trauma, lack of economic or social perspective—we met them: Pablo, a young violinist, who returned from exile to start a children’s orchestra in his native town. Sister Peggy, whose Center for Art for Peace brought life back to an empty city and made it safe. Mia, a musician who has taught generations of young Salvadoran artists to teach children in their own communities. David, Gabriel and Cecilia, who bring children to their cultural center in the woods, to draw, write, make music, and learn about their indigenous heritage.

They remind me of the words of a dear, wise friend: where empathy is lacking, be empathy. Where hope is lacking, be hope.

In a world dominated by violence and hopelessness, we are reminded that in every dry jungle, there is an oasis of hope. As musicians, we are lucky to have the greatest tool for empathy and hope: music. We are proud to join with other musicians without borders, to support their work in bringing empathy and hope through music to the children of El Salvador.

In peace,

Laura Hassler
Director & Founder
Musicians without Borders



With your help, we will train 15 more Community Music Leaders, and support our team of 30 experienced Community Music Leaders to work with over 1000 children in 2017; former street children; young people facing profound challenges, and children affected by HIV. Through life-affirming music and connection to their cultural roots, children will feel supported and valued as they so richly deserve.

On this 23rd Day of Remembrance in Rwanda we stand with all Rwandans in memorial and for a peaceful future.

A young band from our partner organisation in Rwanda wrote this song, expressing their feelings of the tragic events of 1994.  It begins:

“Although I wasn’t there, I was told about it.
Imagining it is hard for me.
Their tears are flowing and they are full of sadness and my sorrow.”

Listen to the song here.