“We Can Be The Change We Want”
Sharon Katz was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, during the Apartheid era, and spent her teenage years illegaly going to black townships near her home to visit activists and actors — like her friend John Kani, now world famous for his Tony Awards and roles in hit movies like “Black Panther”.
Sharon acquired a Master’s Degree in Music Therapy from Temple University in Philadelphia. After working in the prisons, schools, and mental health programs of Philadelphia, Sharon returned home to South Africa in 1992 when the country was on the verge of transition from Apartheid to the new Democracy under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.
When she returned, she created a 500 voice multi-cultural choir to perform and spread a message of unity in the country. They subsequently performed for Nelson Mandela and went on to travel around South Africa with 150 singers and musicians on a train they called, “The Peace Train”, living together and performing Sharon’s original musical production to help prepare the country for peaceful elections.
Since the original ride of The Peace Train across South Africa in 1993, Sharon has continued spreading a message of peace and reconciliation around the world through performances, seminars, workshops, residencies and cultural collaborations. In 2015, a documentary, “When Voices Meet” was released, telling the story of “The Peace Train” through the words of the youth and families who were participants in the project.
Sharon travels the world presenting her model of music and social change, performing, recording, directing productions and cultural exchange projects, and leads experiential workshops incorporating South African songs and dances and her orchestrations, compositions and arrangements of music. Since 2018, her groundbreaking project “The Peace Train Transcending Barriers” has joined together families, musicians and singers from the USA, Mexico, Cuba and South Africa.
Just back from performing The Peace Train Concert with 250 Cuban youth, orchestra and band in Santiago de Cuba in November 2019, Sharon is currently based in Tijuana, Mexico, where she is a four time awardee of the San Diego Foundation. She is currently organizing an extraordinary musical collaboration when musicians, singers and families from USA & Mexico will ride together on “The Peace Train”.
Sharon received the 2019 Phil Ochs “Music for Political and Social Change” Award, and Sharon and Marilyn Cohen, Manager of The Peace Train Projects since its inception, received the 2016 Kristin Lems “Change Through Music Award” from the National Women’s Music Festival. Sharon Katz & The Peace Train were also featured in the WHYY Emmy nominated “On Tour” program in 2017.
Sharon Katz & The Peace Train use proceeds from their appearances for their humanitarian work in under-developed areas of South Africa and around the world including music therapy with orphans and communities affected by HIV/AIDS; feeding programs in impoverished areas; conflict resolution in violence-torn regions; building schools and community arts centers; and promoting social justice.