This week we’re thrilled to introduce Steve Mazza, founder of Play It Forward, a brand new web-based non-profit organization that empowers musicians and fans to make the world a better place. Basically, the concept is this: artists upload their recordings (anywhere from one song to a full album), select a download price and a charity of their choice. Fans are then able to check out new music and download it, knowing that 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the artist’s specified charity. In a world where artists and songwriters are often grossly under-compensated for their work, PIF gives artists the opportunity to know – quite literally – that they’re affecting positive change on a real level. Meanwhile, a powerful and meaningful community of musicians and listeners is born.
Steve Mazza kindly shared some of his journey with us – including his passions, sources of inspiration and what led him to build the beautiful movement that is Play It Forward.
Where It All Began. A native of South Salem, New York, Steve spent much of his high school days going to school dances, hanging at the local diner, and writing way too many songs about girls. He spent his summers as a camp counselor and loved working with children, which led him to pursue an undergraduate degree in elementary education at Skidmore College.
Passions. “My earliest passion was drawing. I was enamored by the idea of creating something in my mind, transposing it to paper and then sharing it with others. Songwriting became my muse as a teenager, and using music as a means of helping others became my life’s mission upon graduating college. That said, I’d be remiss to exclude the most meaningful work that I do on a daily basis – as a cognitive-behavioral therapist I’m passionate about helping children face their fears and navigate life’s challenges.”
Music For a Cause. Mazza’s desire to help those in need deepened when, as an education student, he spent a summer teaching and traveling to many impoverished areas of South Africa. The experience instilled in him a serious sense of perspective and a profound sense of responsibility. Steve soon realized he could use his own music to create a direct and positive impact on the world. “I was working on a homemade music album, and realized that I could use my album to raise money for an orphanage in South Africa. Over the course of the next 5 years, I raised over $23,000 for two children’s charities by selling home-produced music. Creating music in my mind, setting it free in the world, and watching it affect positive change was fun as hell, and it worked. I realized I was onto something with this music-fundraising model.”
Steve continued his studies, receiving a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University in 2012. He’s currently a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Hofstra University. He notes, “I love working with kids in the context of psychotherapy but I’ve never stopped dreaming of making the world a better place through music.” Steve describes below how he developed and prepared for the launch of Play It Forward. But first:
His Words To Live By. “Love is what inspires my music. Potential is what inspires my life. I’m a quixotic optimist, a hopeless romantic, and an insatiable dreamer. I mean, it sounds crazy, but I really believe that we can achieve anything. That’s not to say that we will achieve anything that we aspire to, but that we can. So why not try?”
Meditation + The Weight Room. “This year I began meditating regularly and practicing mindfulness in spare moments throughout the day. I’ve gotten better at it with practice, although meditation is excruciatingly difficult at times. Meditation is not an escape for me; it’s more about opening up to whatever is occurring internally and externally at the moment, whether it be physical pain, difficult emotions or circumstances, or pleasant feelings. Instead of an escape, meditation is a way of diving into the present moment with willingness, acceptance, and curiosity. As for exercising, I love to hit the gym – especially the weight room.”
Launching Play It Forward. “In 2007, I came up with the idea of starting a non-profit organization to help musicians raise money for charities. If the model worked so well for me, perhaps I could make change on a larger scale by helping other musicians and charities benefit from it. Over the course of 3 years, I recorded another charity album, moved to New York, and read as many ‘Non-Profits for Dummies’ books as I could get my hands on. I started applying for incorporation in 2010, eventually succeeded in 2013, received 501(c)(3) status in 2014, and officially launched the website in late September, 2015. It’s been an 8-year journey to set this little idea free in the world, but I’m excited to see how it plays out…or plays forward!”
What are your goals for PIF in the upcoming years? “We have big plans in the works for the future, many of which we’re not ready to publicly disclose, but PIF is growing quickly. We’ve added some very talented and passionate people with a wealth of business and music experience to our board of directors and are expanding our vision far beyond musician-led fundraising projects. On a smaller scale, we want to start releasing charity compilations sponsored by organizations. For example, we are currently working with colleges to sponsor student compilation albums to benefit local charities.”
Calling All Musicians: Get Involved. It’s simple: Sign up at www.playitforward.com to create an artist page and fundraising page. I encourage artists to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org before launching a fundraiser so that PIF can provide fundraising guidance and partner with a charity willing to promote them.
We left our conversation with Steve feeling heart-warmed by his strength, sincerity and conviction. Play it Forward is all about creating positive change in a simple, connective and beautiful way. We encourage you to get involved during the early stages of PIF to be a part of this important movement. Let artists and music lovers know how they can make a difference by playing it forward.
Thank you Steve Mazza for your commitment to bettering the world. We are beyond inspired.
Craving a good heartbreak song? Check out “I’m Over You“, available for download at Play It Forward. Minimum donation is $2. All proceeds benefit Wellness In The Schools, a New York City based non-profit that inspires healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools.