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Pens Pals Through Music


To foster global friendships and provide cultural understanding through music.


Pen Pals Through Music seeks to directly connect musicians in the United States and China. In a critical moment in our collective history, it can be hard to see similarities between the two countries. However, this project aims to unite these two communities through a shared admiration for music’s ability to tell stories. Music can create a bridge between the two countries. 

Map highlighting the United States and China

Map highlighting the United States and China

Pen Pals Through Music is a Canales Project initiative that follows a similar theme of a pen pal — replacing letter writing with the sharing of music. Acting as both the sender and receiver of the letter, musicians from the United States and China will be the musicians featured in the first iteration of this project, engaging with repertoire and culture they may not have previously been exposed to. 

In order to broaden mutual understanding and experience sincere conversations, Pen Pals Through Music has two parts: A performance aspect and a spoken aspect. 

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The project develops as follows:

  1. Each musician will select a song that holds a relationship around each musician’s cultural identity. 

  2. After selecting the song, the musician will take a video of themself playing the song.

  3. In addition to the song, the musician will record themselves verbally expressing the essence and personal significance of the piece. For example, why they selected the piece, what it means to them, the history of the composer, and what they hope their pen pal will learn from the piece (to name a few).

  4. The recordings and the sheet music of each participant will be sent to their corresponding pen pal.

See also: Pen Pals Through Music.