Joris van Wijngaarden, a former financial director of Carante Groep, organized a party for employees under the name of Southwest Festival in 2005. As a big supporter and promoter of live music, he invited several bands to perform at the party, including Candye Kane, American blues singer. During her performance, Candye invited two singers with intellectual disabilities on stage to sing with her: Lady Angel and J.A. Grace. That was the moment when they both got inspired. They put their heads together and imagined a musical extravaganza that would promote blues music, brighten hearts, create cooperation and blur the lines between who has a disability and who does not. At that moment they conceptualized United by Music.

South West Festival 2005 (start United by Music)

The search for musical talents immediately started. Auditions were organized all over the Netherlands and many people with intellectual disabilities participated. In 2006 the first United by Music tour was a fact: eleven shows in two weeks. Every show had a program, having members with disabilities under the guidance of a professional American blues band. All shows ended with the performance of the blues diva Candye Kane. United by Music brought the uplifting power of music to the Netherlands.

Ever since, United by Music has changed a lot. The organization is comparable with an artist, or event management bureau that has many diverse artists under its umbrella. The artists are almost completely independent when it comes to music and can be called professional musicians. The All Star Band performed over 300 times for more than 100.000 audience in 10 different countries, including South-Africa, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Canada and the USA.

Our dream is to introduce United by Music to every community, so people with disabilities can get up on a band stand and be treated as equals all around the world.

In 2012, United by Music has established an independent non-profit organization in North-America under the direction of Barbara Hammerman (www.ubmna.org) and in 2015, we have established an independent organization in Norway under the direction of Helena Wilberg (www.unitedbymusic.no). In 2018, the United by Music Romania Foundation was registered at Sfântu Gheorghe, the honorary president being the famous jazz singer Luiza Zan, and his creator is the reformed pastor Péter Makkai, whose name is associated with a series of social projects that serve the welfare of people with disabilities.

United by Music has grown from that one spontaneous moment into an organization that now has been all over the world and touched hundreds of lives.
Candye Kane

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