Healing in Harmony at Panzi Hospital

In the time of COVID-19 – Our new COO Shannon Johnson shares her insights

Having served as Make Music Matter’s Director of Operations for the past two years, Shannon Johnson has been instrumental in driving the growth of the Healing in Harmony program to eight countries worldwide. In her role as Chief Operating Officer, she’ll continue to scale and expand Make Music Matter’s programming and provide leadership for the organization.

Shannon Johnson, Make Music Matter COO
Shannon Johnson, Make Music Matter Chief Operating Officer

As we adjust to the realities of a global pandemic, the team behind the breakthrough Healing in Harmony program has not slowed down. Johnson shared some insights into what COVID-19 has meant for our Healing in Harmony artists, our partners, and what lies ahead for the organization.



What’s the current status of Healing in Harmony programs around the world?

We are taking a very conservative approach to opening up as various areas move to Phase 3, such as in Uganda and Turkey. We are at the same time, however, enforcing COVID measures such as handwashing, physical distancing, and PPE. This requires constant attention as the situation can change at any moment, like we have seen recently in Turkey. Above all, the safety of our participants, staff, and volunteers is paramount.

How is the pandemic affecting MMM partners?

Our partners who serve the communities in which we work are overwhelmed. The physical, psychological, economic, and safety needs of the people in these communities were already great before COVID. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem and stretched already thin resources. We are working in solidarity with our partners to help them address the situation.

What about the vulnerable groups that Make Music Matter serves? What challenges are they facing?

The vulnerable groups that Make Music Matter and our partners serve were living with poverty, disease, conflict, trauma, and many other forms of strife before COVID. They are discriminated against, stigmatized, and their human rights are violated. Under COVID, this vulnerability has increased to an alarming degree, particularly in the case of women and girls, displaced persons, and those living with disabilities.  

In addition to halting economic activities, lockdown measures have increased the risk of violence in the home against women and children, who are also at greater risk of exploitation, including early forced marriage.

What’s happening globally with the pandemic has brought the human rights of women and children back many decades. We want to change that – and have the skills to do so. 

These are some of the strongest people I’ve met in the world – particularly the mothers and grandmothers. We will continue to prioritize the participation of women and girls as we design Healing in Harmony programs that are tailored to meet their specific needs. We will work as hard as possible to do right by them, and I hope, to bring them some joy and appreciation for their efforts.

In light of the pandemic, do you anticipate changes to the way the Healing in Harmony program is run?

One of the most important things we’re working on as we scale the program is a mobile version that can reach more people and communities. We hope to test this out in early 2021.

What else is the Make Music Matter team working on at the moment?   

MMM has made the most of this situation in that we’ve been working hard preparing for the fall and 2021. There are a lot of great things coming and I believe that now more than ever our work is much needed. Sexual violence and mental health issues have proliferated during the pandemic and we at MMM will do our best to address these issues. Please stay tuned in the fall for some fantastic announcements about our new partnerships.

What message do you want to share with the MMM and Healing in Harmony community?

We are here for you. Always.

What can people do to show their support?

Donations are always welcome. During this time we need to help more than ever. The MMM team is an extremely committed group who have given above and beyond to keep this great dream going. We all started as volunteers and fell in love with the organization, the vision, our partners, and the program. We’re now in a position to make some significant change.

Help make a lasting impact in the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Donate today to the Healing in Harmony therapy program.


HIH Mulamba DRC

Healing in Harmony artists in Mulamba, rural DRC, were given mp3 players pre-loaded with songs created in their group therapy sessions. This meant that they could now play the music whenever they chose or felt the need.

Where women face discrimination and, in most cases, do not have equal access to household electronics, this type of initiative helps them to take charge of their healing journey. Even in isolation, these women may continue to benefit from the gains made in the Healing in Harmony group therapy program.

Listen now to Bulya Gurhi, the debut release from Cohorte Femmes Héroïnes in Mulamba.

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