Origin of PPOE, Steve’s Personal Journey
Steve Robertson’s Personal Journey Towards Peace.
My name is Steve Robertson.
Since childhood, I’ve had a profound fascination with how music could give me goose bumps and on occasion, bring tears of joy to my eyes. Here is my story of discovering, and then following, my life purpose to help bring greater peace to our world. This preface serves an account of my twenty-four year journey to bring Project Peace on Earth into reality. Each Section and Chapter of the book reflects lessons that I have learned from the journey, that I hope, will lift your heart and serve to help you find and fulfill your Divine Life Purpose.
My love for music began as a child. While riding in the car with my parents, I would occasionally hear a song on the radio that really caught my attention, made me happy and gave me goose bumps. When this occurred it felt like the music’s power would just take me over. Back then, in the early 60′s, there were not individual cassette tape players or CDs to listen to music. If you really loved a song you heard on the radio, you were at the mercy of the radio DJ to play it again and catch the great feeling.
Living then, in a small city called Friendswood, Texas, my neighbor friends had a record player and some of the early Beatles music. We would gather in their game room and listen intensely to the music letting the lyrics carry our imagination. I played music in the elementary school band, never learned to read music however, I somehow had the ability to play music by ear. I could look at notes on the page and play them pitch perfectly. When the teacher asked me what a note was on the music sheet, I was clueless. Music took a backseat to my full, twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week, attention was on playing football. I loved running with the ball and dodging people who were trying to tackle me.
One day during elementary school recess, at the age 8, I was playing football. On this particular play, I was running with the ball. No one could tackle me. As I crossed the goal-line, I had a distinct feeling of invincible, all sound and time stopped, I saw everything 360 degrees from above and around me. It was an experience liken to the film The Matrix. I had no fear in this moment nor did I feel perplexed by the experience, which seemed to go away instantly. I had no words to describe the experience. It felt like, what I would now call, a Divine message just for me. There were no words that accompanied this message only a strong and unmistakable sense that I had a mission to help bring peace to our world. Accompanying this feeling of invincibility and this inner message, I seemed instantaneously miles above the earth, now looking and zooming downwardly towards, what I know now to be Manger Square Bethlehem. I didn’t know what to think about this nor did I have any sort of geographical reference point to know where this place way. With this aerial image, the experience went away. I gave no thought to the experience again.
My life revolved around playing sports. I felt constantly perplexed by watching others hurt and bully others. I never stood for this. My physical toughness on the football field gave me a certain respect that enabled me to interven.
Growing up in Friendswood, this Quaker established city in Texas, I became aware of various other form of Christianity: Catholics, Baptists, Protestants, Methodists and others. I remember feeling profoundly perplexed by how each of these Christian sects, who somehow claimed that they had the right version of Jesus, could claim that the other believers in Jesus, were basically going to hell. Ultimately, the experience I had at age 8 and this crossing the football goal-line message, is what lead me to produce the Project Peace On Earth concert.
On our street one of my neighbor friends had mounted a lawnmower engine into a bicycle frame. This makeshift motorcycle was soon worn out and crashed by everyone on the street. It was replaced by a real mini-bike. Neighbors down the street had a new Honda mini-bike and I would mow their lawn in exchange for time to ride this bike. I quickly turned my attention toward the dream of having my own motorcycle and riding in the woods around our home. I begged my father for a motorcycle. Growing up, he and his brother built and shared a Harley. He had had two very bad falls, one that almost took his life. He did not want me to have any part of riding on the street. This was Ok with me. I only had an interest in riding in the woods.
Finally at age 11, after sweeping lots of barber shop floors, mowing lots of yards, learning to save money and getting good grades on my report card, buying a helment, my Father bought me my first off-road motorcycle, a Suzuki 50cc bike. I was in heaven. Our home had a one-acre yard. In the first week I put 500 miles on my new motorcycle riding circles around the house. I drove my mother nuts. This likely prompted her to give permission for me to ride in the woods down the street.
Not long thereafter, we moved to Florida. My father, who was an aerospace engineer working for TRW, had been promoted. He was to run TRW’s Aerospace program in Cape Canaveral.
Once there, my father found a property in Melbourne and began the process of building our new home. In the meanwhile we moved into an apartment complex. During this time my new motorcycle was in moving storage. I was heartbroken over not being able to ride my bike.
Fortunately, my next door neighbor friend had a real 100cc Yamaha motocross bike. One weekend, he and his father took me to the motocross races. I was my first time. I was immediately captured by the sound, the exhaust smell, excitement and competition. I knew I was going to race and would one day, I hoped, turn pro.
After a month or so of my father getting tired of hearing me ask to get my motorcycle out of storage, I finally got it back. On the weekends my father would drive me to a huge open field of some thousand acres and leave me with a tank of gasoline, water and food. I would ride until it was dark. I literally rode the wheels off this bike and wore the engine out. With no way to fix it, I convinced my father to buy me a replacement motorcycle, a 125cc Yamaha full motocross bike.
Now moved into our new home. Each day after school I would immediately go riding in the woods with my friends until dark. We would race between each other from time to time. I had a sense I was pretty fast. Eventually, after months of pleading with my Dad, he finally agreed to let me race. “Just once,” he said.
At my first race I placed 3rd and got a trophy. My Dad and I were hooked on racing thereafter. From that weekend forward, my father and I would go to the races every weekend. Rock Music played as the anthem to our driving to various the racetracks up and down the Florida coast. I again wore the 125 Yamaha out and got a larger 175cc Yamaha. I began to dominate this new class, winning first place trophy after trophy. I again wore this bike out and my father purchased me the latest 1974 Yamaha YZ 250. Wow was it cool and fast.
Soon thereafter, my Father was promoted again and we moved to Virginia. I quickly made friends with motocross racers at Robinson High school in Fairfax, Northern Virginia. As a junior in High School, my Dad and I would go to the races. We had such a great time together. I loved being with my Dad. He was the coolest and smartest man I ever met. He was always telling jokes.
Eventually, I got my drivers license and Dad let me go to the races with my friends. He began spending more time with my two sisters and their love of horses.
In my junior high school class, now living Virginia, I really had my focus on racing. Going to school was boring. Of all the classes I took during High School, the one I liked the least, was English. I really disliked reading because I considered myself a slow reader, and with writing, I disliked this even more. During this time, I was extremely fortunate in having a very cool English teacher who had us reading books by Tolken, C.S. Lewis and Robert Heinlein. Still, with each day of school, I felt a dread whenever I had to go to English class.
One day, this all changed. This day, our English teacher came in and announced that in essence, we would not be having our normal class. Instead she said, that we would be listening to music. She stated that she would be turning the lights out in the room and then be playing some music. Our assignment was to just listen to the music and see where our imagination took us. All that we had to do was to put our head down on our desk and listen to the music.
My immediate thought, “Cool” I’ll take a good nap. My next thought, “Oh No, I hope she doesn’t play classical music, I hate classical music.” In seconds, I decided to suffer through whatever uncool music she was going to play. As she turned out the lights, I put my head down on the desk’s table and readied myself for a nap. Then, she dropped needle of the record player onto music I had never heard before, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” With each note and song, my mind immediately lit up like a personally synchronized fireworks display. I was on a journey with every second of the music lighting the way of my imagination. My mind was being blown away. The music took me on a visual roller coaster up, down and through, what seemed like, a sort of cosmic rabbit hole. It was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. I had grown up as a teenager listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Their song “Lucky Man” was my favorite however, “Dark Side of the Moon” went some place much deeper. I was in utter awe. I had no idea of how powerfully deep music could touch me, move me and excite my imagination.
After class, my racing buddies, who were in the class with me, all looked at each other with the same sense of silent and reverent awe. We just couldn’t speak. The experience was too powerful and sacred to describe in words. We immediately went out and bought the album. We would listen to it over and over, and over again. This musical experience planted the seed awareness within me, one that I would not fully realize and appreciate until later in life.
My motocross racing continued and I dominated B-class and then moved to Expert Class. I won my first Expert race and things went downhill from there. During my senior year of High School and during gym class I was playing basketball. I jumped up to get the ball and my elbow came down on another person’s shoulder. He was Ok however, I had the worst case of hitting your funny bone that you could ever imagine. Shortly thereafter I began to notice that my right hand, my throttle hand, would go numb. I couldn’t hold my fingers together when washing my face. During races my hand would go numb. I would loose the grip of the motorcycle, the worst possible thing that could occur while racing.
Doctor visit after doctor visit, test after test, concluded I had an operation to relocate the damaged never in my elbow that was being pinched. After the operation, my hand strength returned a little yet, during races, I seemed to make lots of mistakes and fall allot. A mentor friend of mine, Puddin Wright, watched me during the races and always provided great feedback. He pointed out that I had the stills and speed to win but mentally I didn’t see myself as being able to win. I thought about this allot. I reflected that when I got the races, often the night before, I would watch people in my 250 expert class arriving through the gate. There is so and so, he’ll probably win, there is so and so he’ll probably get second and so on until, before the race even started I was mid pack.
Listening to Puddin, as I did very carefully, I said to myself, he’s right…I’m defeating myself mentally before I even get on the track. I convinced myself of the reality that these other racers put their riding gear on just like me, that it wasn’t my bike’s fault and that I truly had the skills and talent to win. So with this new mental programming in place I put my bike back to stock and decided to focus my new confidence at upcoming three-day race weekend at one of my favorite tracks in Virginia called SME.
I arrived at the track focusing only on my ability to ride with and race with the top riders. The first moto, race, on Saturday our 250 expert class was stacked with all the top riders from our Virginia District and Maryland. The gate dropped and I got a good start. The top riders began to pull away from the rest of the pack and I was in direct eye racing contact with this group. The moto progressed and I was riding wheel to wheel with the top group of riders who were less than a second apart from one another. I stayed didn’t fall during the entire race and finished seventh, as I recall. I clearly had the speed to run with the top riders and race winners. The next and final moto, the gate dropped again. This time I got the hole-shot, I was the first rider to the first turn. I never looked back and won the race.
Day two of the three-day race weekend was on Sunday. In moto one I got the hole-shot and won the race. In moto two I got the hole-shot and won the race. At the end of the race day, SME had a tradition of having a Calcutta race. This race that brought the top five placing riders of each class: 125cc, 250cc and 500cc; and raced them all together for a pot of money. My first Calcutta I won. Day three of race weekend I won both motos and won the Calcutta race again. With each race weekend thereafter I would consistently win or place in the top three. I placed second overall in our American Motorcycle Association (AMA) motocross District 13 this year.
At age 18, my senior year in High School, I turned pro. I raced professionally for three years as per my agreement with my Father and his promised financial support. During this time I worked skilled labor jobs from being a janitor to working the parts desk at local motorcycle shop to construction work in order to support my racing habit. I raced the Florida Winter Am Pro series during my first professional season.
A group of racing friends and I all drove down to Florida and stayed there for the entire season traveling up and down the Florida coast. The speed and physical conditioning required to race at professional level was intense. Daily runs, weight lifting and practicing were all regular occurrences. I placed in the top ten during these races however, it was apparent that my nerve injury and hand weakness was clearly a problem and affecting my performance.
I went back to the doctor for more tests. They showed the ulner nerve in my elbow was not healing. It was determined that another operation might show better progress. I found another surgeon and had another operation. My hand strength seemed to be returning and my racing results improved.
Then one rainy afternoon, not far away from our home, I was driving the family Chevy Suburban, the closest thing to a tank, anyone could drive. I was on a small road, and there, now driving in my lane, I saw a Concrete truck. I had nowhere to go and could only slam on my brakes. It had just rained and the roads were slick so all I could do slide into the front of the truck. I hit with such impact that my hands literally bend the steering wheel of the Suburban. My right hand came off the steering wheel and plunged into the dash of the car and my right elbow hit and cracked the car’s windshield. Stitches now in my had and my newly recovering right elbow nerve was now, re-damaged. Again, my hand strength capacity was limited and impacting my racing results.
The reality of my professional racing career was becoming apparent. As I had prior agreed with my Father, I decided that my best option was to go onto college full-time. I was the last of the children to go to College, and because of my prior experience in doing hard skilled labor, I was highly motivated to get my degree and get a good paying job. As a result, I was the last of the children to enter college and the first to graduate with a degree in Business Administration.
Flash forward and after graduating, I had always wanted to be in sales. My first job out of college was working for a Plywood manufacturing company called Champion near Lufkin, Texas. I was to start out in Quality Control and then move into a management position running a section of the plant. The plant was always hot and humid. Communication consisted of cursing at one another. I quickly tired of the job, even after being promoted into a Supervisory Position within the plant. I worked the graveyard shift from 11pm to 8am in the morning. I was highly motivated to get another job, one I dreamed of, that of being in sales. I reviewed the newspapers everyday for sales position opening in the nearby city of Houston.
On my off days I would drive down to Houston and interview for jobs. I eventually landed a job, making some seven thousand dollars a year more, as a inside sales associate selling industrial process control equipment. I wanted to move into outside sales selling computer systems for the company. A year later, I was promoted to being an outside sales engineer. I did very well for the company however, at this time of 1986 and at the age 29, new management moved into the company. I had a huge spiritual meltdown. Within a 24 hour period, the woman I was engaged to ended our relationship and I lost my job.
I was emotionally and spiritually lost. The unbearable depression that resulted from this experience ultimately lead me to read a book, written in 1924, by Florence Shinn called “The Game of Life and How to Play It”. There, in this masterfully written book I found two questions that would change and shape the course of my life. Question one, she asked, “If you could do anything in the world (and there were no limitations she specified other than those we self-imposed) what would you do? The second question, “What do you love the most?”
Upon reading these two questions I said to myself, this is it, the questions I’ve looked for all of my life, in essence, ”Why Am I here?” And, “What is my purpose in life”? These questions, I thought to myself, are the two most important questions that I, or anyone else, could ever ask themselves.
With this in mind, I remembered the quote from the bible “Knock and the door will open, seek and ye shall find.” Feeling and sensing the truth of this quote, I also remembered a wisdom that came through me one day at age 18. I was pondering life and its’ meaning relative to my professional racing goals. The response, which spoke deeply through me, “Limitations are bound only by the mind. The mind is bound only by our perceptions of those limitations.”
From this moment forward, I committed to literally knock on the door of heaven’s heart until my knuckles, if need be, were bloody. I was going to know the answer to these important questions. Given that at the time, I had no girlfriend or job, I had plenty of time to knock. I began meditating as best I knew how, persistently asking these questions within, determined to hear the answer.
Finally, one day I heard the answer. A voice spoke loudly within me. The voice seemed spoken to me from within the room and from some outside source. The Voice spoke, “Music.”
Now, as a teen I had grown up on a constant diet of rock music…the Who, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, Jeff Beck, etc. Later in college, I became a DJ and the school’s radio promotion manager. I had also become an expert on what would soon become known as ”Ambient” and “New Age” music.
To be honest, after hearing that my purpose was “Music”, I felt even more confused than before. What on earth, I though to myself, was I supposed to do with or about “Music”? I was not a musician at the time, nor did I have any interest in becoming one. I grew up playing football and then later I raced motocross professionally.
How was I going to find my life purpose through “Music”? Then I remembered the second question that Florence asked in the book, ”What do you love to do the most?” The answer to this question, relative to its framing around the subject of music, came almost instantly; What I loved to do relative to this question was sharing beautiful, uplifting and inspiring music with my friends and anyone who loved great music.
Naturally I asked “If sharing beautiful music with people is my life purpose, how do I make a living out of this?” So I came up with the idea of creating a company like Muzak, a company that would play beautiful New Age music in hotels and restaurants, rather than the sterile and soulless music that was currently being played by this market leading company. I did all of the research on the various delivery systems, radio, tapes, etc…and catalogued thousands of songs by time, tempo, duration, and the emotions I felt from each piece of music. At the same time, I was reading every book on metaphysics that I could find.
Shortly thereafter, while living in Houston (1986), I was introduced to a woman from Monaco named Elizabeth, who as it turned out, was close friends with King Hussein of Jordan. She had been the interior designer of his palaces for some twenty years. She had an idea about doing a concert to promote “Goodness”, a means of facilitating peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I felt this was a very important cause, though at the time, I cared little about world events. King Hussein had given her permission to use a piece of land in Jordan for the concert and she was in the process of lining up performers to participate…artists like Elton John, Dire Straits, Pavarotti, and various other rock groups.
I immediately recognized that something very important was missing from the roster, musicians who were about promoting inner peace through their music. So in my first meeting with her I told her exactly that “Unless you have the music at the concert that is about promoting inner peace, you won’t be able to facilitate the outer experience of peace you are hoping to accomplish through the concert.” She agreed and I immediately offered to contact the artists who I felt performed this peace inspiring music, artists such as: Kitaro, Yanni, Enya, Vangelis, Yes, and others. She agreed to allow me to use my sales experience to enroll these artists to perform at the event.
Now, having just offered to do outreach to these performers, a thought came to my mind “I had absolutely zero idea about how to go about doing this nor did I have contacts to facilitate my offer.” One thing I did know was this, that if my inner voice had instructed me to offer this service, it would also show me how to accomplish it. My job was to have complete faith and to act with unwavering courage based on my inner guidance.
With this belief, I pledged to God that I would do whatever I was told and do whatever it took (rain, sleet, hail or snow) to accomplish the mission of bringing the power of this spiritually transformational music to mainstream public awareness.
Almost immediately thereafter and while living in Houston, Texas, a DJ friend of mine, who had a popular New Age music radio show on Pacifica Radio, invited me to travel with him to Dallas to see and interview the famed Japanese composer/musician, Kitaro. He was performing in his first North American tour called “Light of the Spirit”. Kitaro, at that time spoke very little English and required a translator. By his side was Eiichi, who is still, to the present day, his manager. I remember Kitaro’s words when asked why he didn’t have lyrics sung to his music…”Words” he said, “Limit the imagination.” Back stage I also met the renowned violinist Steve Kindler. I talked to everyone about the Jordan concert and collected telephone numbers to follow-up.
Shortly after Kitaro’s concert, I was offered another job as a sales engineer. I moved to Dallas to work for Johnson Controls Company selling industrial process control computers. I had, as I was later told by the head of Human Resourses, become the youngest sales executive in their corporate history.
Not long after moving to Dallas the artist Yanni was doing a record signing at a local record store for the release of his second album entitled “Out of Silence”. Tried as I may, I could not find anyone to connect me to him. I had just completed my second metaphysical book by Sanaya Roman entitled “Personal Power Through Awareness.” My intuition was being flooded with information. It instructed me to just go to the store and try to contact him there. It seemed like an odd suggestion and I was more than a little uncomfortable about what to say to him once I got there. So, I put on my best power suit and I did exactly what I was told. I went to the store and stood in a long line of people wanting his autograph. When I got to him, finally at the front of the line, I explained briefly that I wanted him to participate in the big peace concert in Jordan. He politely dismissed me to speak to a person standing to the side, who as it turned out, was a fellow by the name of Jeff.
Jeff, as it turned out, was the VP of Private Music, the label Yanni was on. I repeated to Jeff, more details about the concert and explained why I felt it was important for Yanni to perform. With little more said Jeff then invited me to join he, Yanni and others dinner after the autograph signing session. I immediately agreed and joined them.
Shortly thereafter, and through Jeff, I connected with Suzanne Ciani, another Private Music artist, who was doing a concert in Dallas. This encounter opened door after door after door with musicians, until one day I received a call from Elizabeth, the concert originator, the event was off, major geopolitical problems in the middle east, money, greedy people, egos, etc. I was heart broken.
To heal, I poured myself into my new job. However, the idea of this concert, my mission of getting this inspirational and healing music out in a very mainstream way never left me. I knew something was very special about this music. Then, one day, out of the blue this inner voice said loudly “Why not”…Why not a concert of the music you love the most?” I thought to myself “Why not indeed!”. I have contact with these artists, so “Why not?” So with this inspiration I started mapping out on a paper napkin during my lunch time, what a concert like this would look like.
From that day on I spent my lunch hours, evenings, and every spare moment I had to create the concept for the concert, which I originally called “The World Music Festival.” Simultaneously, I was looking for ways to scientifically describe what made this New Age/spiritually inspirational music so unique.
Through a dear and long-time racing friend Rusty, from Virginia, who was now living in Dallas and attending Parker Chiropractic College, I was introduced to Dr. Bernie Siegel’s book “Love, Medicine, and Miracles”. After reading the book it became clear to me that Bernie was not talking about healing from cancer as much as he was communicating the importance of learning unconditional love for oneself. A prerequisite for facilitating the essence of what Hippocrates meant when he said “Physician heal thyself.” As I got half way through the book and had this light bulb moment, I said, “That’s it”, that’s what’s coming through this special music, the essence of unconditional love.
Soon thereafter, I was guided to connect with Bernie through his ECaP (Exceptional Cancer Patient organization), and we became friends. Later, through my relationship with Bernie, I arranged for him to speak to the students at Parker College. Shortly thereafter, I connected and became friends with Dr. Larry Dossey. He was living in Dallas at the time. Larry was the Chief of Staff at one Dallas’s major hospitals and had recently written a holistic/metaphysical book entitled “Space, Time and Medicine.”
Through reading these books and numerous others, it was becoming very apparent that the through-line of these books dealt with emerging medical research that exacted a relationship between negative emotional (psycho-spiritual) states and resulting diseases, or dis-ease, as it was being newly phrased.
While reading these books, which clearly exacted negative emotions toward some state of dis-ease, I found myself deeply and continually perplexed. Why had none of these major holistic doctors considered music as a plausible means of correcting the negative emotional states responsible for creating the dis-ease.
It was becoming clear to me that I was seeing something that others weren’t. In order to further clarify for myself and those that I was talking to about the importance of this special inspirational/New Age music and a concert of it, I began to write a position paper. This paper helped me further realize why certain types of music had moved me so deeply, and why, most of all, was it so important to produce a world concert of this special music. Here is an excerpt from the paper. The full paper can be read on our website: www.ProjectPeaceOnEarth.org
Music of the Spheres
Pythagoras, the father of mathematics, believed that the philosophical principles of love, peace, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, and joy were embodied in the harmonics of what he termed “Music of the Spheres”. This music, he believed, was heard and recreated in proportion to the composer’s level of spiritual evolution and most importantly their intent to create compositions from that devotional mind set. This state of spiritual intention, according to history’s great mystics, is accessed through a devotional and contemplative listening to the small still voice within that guides the self into union with Divine Will. “Be still and know that I am God” says the Bible. Paramahansa Yogananda, author Autobiography of a Yogi stated: “The Veda’s, India’s most ancient scriptures, was divinely revealed to the rishis, or ‘seers.’ It was a revelation by sound, directly heard.” Aldous Huxley said: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet said: “My soul counseled me and charged me to listen for voices that rise neither from the tongue nor the throat. Before that day I heard but dully, and naught save clamor and loud cries came to my ears; but now I have learned to listen to silence, to hear its choirs singing the song of ages, chanting the hymns of space, and disclosing the secrets of eternity.”
Great composers like J.S. Bach wrote at the head of their compositions “A.M.D.G.”, the Latin initials for “To the Greater Glory of God.” Similarly, when musicians create and perform from a devotional and self-realized state, this intent, at the level of quantum physics, formats their music into an energetic formula that expresses the enlightened perspective of love or what Pythagoras called ‘Music of the Spheres’, a series of frequencies and harmonics that would be analogous to what Abraham Maslow would have described as a state of Self-Actualization, or what Yogananda would have called Self-Realization …thoughts of love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, etc…all of the higher orders of thinking that move us from the linear and dualistic view of the world …right/wrong …good/bad …connected/separate…into more of a holographic understanding of the Divine inner connectedness of all things.
My belief is that the soul already operates on this same frequency, that of the “Music of the Spheres” or Om, Aum, Love, Christ, Buddha, Krishna Consciousness (all the same thing), and when we experience Sacred music that reflects these same harmonics, physiologically through the ears, and intuitively through the psyche, it is like two computers talking the same protocol, The Law of Sympathetic Vibration dictates that the mind will resonate correspondingly. Therefore, the process of listening to spiritually-inspired or Sacred music, establishes the protocol whereby the mind stills and the body relaxes.
In this state, the mind is moved into a present time reality where the sacred vibration of harmony (OM, Aum, Amen, or Cosmic Vibration) is least distorted and the mind is quiet enough to both witness and remember the Song of the Self, or the mystical principle of the “I AM”, the Divinity within. Here, the mind is moved from passive hearing to an active listening of the “Word” or “Primary Harmony”. In other words, the process of listening to Sacred music empowers the mind to perceive and release illusions of fear, pain and suffering so that it experiences and remembers the reality of the love it already is. Thus, atonement and the integration of Divine Will, is made possible.
Back in Dallas, I had been downsized and let go from my job as a sales engineer at Johnson Controls. Fortunately, this happened about the same time I decided to work more full time on the concert. However, having made this decision over the next several years I found that I was in for a very rough financial ride… Eventually, I had to move from my luxury apartment and sleep on friend’s couches, I ate what was given, I had no car, had no phone, and spent my last dime over and over again paying for stamps to send letters about the concert to people who I thought would help. I know what it is like to have just enough money in your pocket to buy a cup of coffee and then eat free bread, butter and jam at a cafe…I wore my power suits to important meetings…often riding the bus or walking to the meetings…I lived on the ragged edge of poverty all the while working every waking moment on the concert. My father, who was a very successful physicist who ran the space program for TRW thought I had lost my mind. For years he couldn’t bring himself to speak to me. At times I thought he might be right. It was a very lonely journey. Eventually, I managed to get on my feet financially and I moved into my own apartment.
Then one day, I read a cover story article in Newsweek magazine on the emerging Self-esteem movement launched by a California Assemblyman in Silicon Valley by the name of John Vasconcellos. As I would later find out he was also Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, responsible for balancing the state’s some 60 billion dollar annual budget. After getting about half way through a letter I had begun writing to introduce myself to him and tell him about the concert (originally called “The World Music Festival”) my inner voice spoke very loudly again:
“Pick up the phone and call him now”
I hesitated for a moment and the message repeated itself. I immediately picked up the phone and called his office. I got right through to his personal secretary and left her brief message with my name, phone number, and the reason why I was calling.
About five minutes later the phone rang and on the other end I heard “Hi, this is John Vasconcellos returning Steve Robertson’s call.” We spoke about his Self-esteem work and about the concert I was producing. Over the next several months I was in constant contact with John’s Self-Esteem staff, waiting for the right moment to invite John to join the Board of Trustees for the concert. After about seven months of contact I was finally told the timing was right to talk to John about this and so I did. He agreed and at the same time he told me “Use my name…but don’t expect much of my time because I’m overwhelmed with balancing the state’s budget.” I hung up the phone and faxed the Board invitation to John. He signed it and not more than about five minutes later John’s secretary called saying that he was doing an overnight in Dallas in route to Florida to do a speech and asked if I could have dinner with him.” “Sure”, I said. About a week later I picked John up at the airport and we stayed out until about 3 o’clock in the morning talking about world politics and spirituality. I drove him back to his hotel and then woke up early in the morning to have breakfast with him and see him off. Over the course of the next year, John would travel to meet with me in Dallas and I to meet with him Santa Clara. We became best friends. About a year afterwards, John invited me to move to Santa Clara to work on the concert and live with him in his spare room. He had always said that California was the place to do the concert. So, in 1990 I sold everything I owed, piled it into an old Cadillac I purchased for $400 and drove out to California on may-pop tires and moved into John’s place.
I was with John, side by side and day in and day out. He graciously introduced me to everyone on Capitol Hill, I was his shadow. He had become my best friend, my mentor, and a father figure. After moving to California I worked to strengthen the Board of the concert.
In time, I moved to Los Angeles to run the Whole Life Expo, as I continued working on the concert. Eventually, I had the idea of producing a promotional video for the concert. The consulting fees that I had gotten from running the Expo were running out. Through dear friends named John and Mark I was introduced to a wonderful man named Peter who ran a non-profit organization and had office space that he offered to share with me on Avenue of the Stars near Beverly Hills.
Once I settled into my new office I began writing the script for the promotional video that I had envisioned. Mark, a film director, introduced me to another young film maker named Shandor who had his own camera equipment and was pioneering a new film look that used 35mm film cut into 8mm strips on a fancy French 8mm camera. He was willing to help shoot the promotional piece if I could acquire the film stock. Determined to do this I attended a film screening for ECO, an entertainment industry organization that produced beautifully inspiring environmental film trailers. There, I met an executive from Eastman Kodak who I told about the promotional DVD I wanted to produce and shortly thereafter he arranged to donated can of 35mm film. I was on cloud nine. Now I had the film, and someone to shoot it but, no money for a production budget.
Through my friend John Vasconcellos I was introduced to Gary, the President of the California Wellness Foundation. I submitted a proposal and they provided $3000 to produce the film. From that date forward I drove around the state with Shandor filming the people in the promotional trailer. With this video I secured the donation of the LA Coliseum, DDB Needham to do the ad campaigns, the stage, lighting, and sound were donated, a billboard was donated, Casey Kasem provided money to print the Billboard banner, board member Marc Brickman who was the lighting and stage designer for Pink Floyd, Genesis, offered to design the show; I also enrolled the original LIVE AID team – Mike Mitchell (Executive Producer), Howard Zuckerman (Executive in Charge of Production), and Jim Tuverson (recently deceased) and Vince Darago (who both coordinated the global telecast for Live Aid). The event, slated for June of 1995….was just a little ahead of its time and the biggest act we had was YES. The event lacked the necessary marquee performers such as Bono, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Sting, Phil Collins, etc. Big name acts that were required to sell the event. At the time much of the popular music lacked spiritual depth that I felt was vital to feature in the broadcast.
From this experience of getting so close to producing the concert I learned many valuable lessons. Firstly, the Cause that the event benefits is less relevant than the names of the marquee value of the musicians who are headlining. Artists like Yanni hadn’t made it big…he hadn’t done the PBS special “Live at the Acropolis” yet…which became their biggest fundraiser to date raising $75 million in three airings, and later the number one selling concert DVD. I had met with the President of HBO, to talk about a production partnership only to find out that he didn’t even know who ENYA was. I was astonished, given recent trade publications that stated that she had sold over 25 million albums worldwide. Despite that, she had never performed live which in and of itself presented a huge logistical problem.
The most important lesson that I learned was this – without the money you do not get the big marquee artists to commit (and even artists like: Vangelis, Yanni, Enya, and Kitaro were not and still are not considered headliner “A-list”) and without the A-List talent, you will not get the A-List fortune 500 sponsors. It is the classic Hollywood chicken and egg story. So in June of 1995, two weeks before the concert, with not enough tickets sold, and lovingly caring call from Jon Anderson, I made the decision to pull the plug on the event. I was exhausted. Painfully, I called everyone involved one by one to tell them of the decision and expressed my disappointment in letting them down. To my surprise, each and every one of them compassionately understood and promised to be there if and when I was able to pull it together at some future point.
Friend and Board Member, Gary Zukav, aware of my exhaustion, graciously and generously paid to have me stay at a retreat in Maui for a couple weeks to relax and heal. I called my father, who had recently softened. He sent me some money along with an airline ticket. I returned to LA somewhat rested, and healed, but with little money and no place to stay. The very small 7×12 ft. trailer I had graciously been given to live in over the year leading up to the Concert in June was on a property that had now been sold. I resolved myself to work and heal Steve financially before attempting the project again. I came back from Maui and started painting houses. I produced a major fundraiser for Big Sisters. I took a full time job selling engine management and Data Acquisitions systems for Indy Cars, and then eventually started my own business in the insurance industry.
From June of 1995 through 2008 I did really well financially, especially once I started my insurance business. Around the end of 2008 I began noticing that I was working twice as hard for a forth the money. Newly elected President Obama was promising an important health coverage plan for all, one as far as I was concerned was way overdue. The company I was working was being challenged to deliver new coverage plans that they were promising myself and other agents. Our company was merging with another company I had concerns about. We were recently purchased and our stock was at an all time high. I began to read the signs. I was taking the money I was earning and investing it back into the concert. I was turning my continuing frustrations with my insurance business towards a more positive and financially solid future with the concert. So around this time I decided to cash out all of my company stock and fully invest my time in concert.
In the months that followed I reached out to artist after artist, new Steering Committee and Advisory Board members. I partnered with the drink company Cell-nique promotional bus tour I put together called “Peace Has Begun” which placed two broadcast journalists on a cool double-decker peace bus that traveled the country examining the lives of people make a difference and bringing about peace.
During the early part of 2009 I was introduced to a new friend Tyler Norris. He would open the door for me to connect into Palestine and the holy site of Manger Square Bethlehem.
Through his contact Hani Masri and Hani’s assistant Nell I was introduced to Sami Khoury of ABS Marketing. Sami really got the concept of the concert and the importance of it relative bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East region. About this same time I met famed TV/Internet director Marc Scarpa. In June, after extensive ground work and meeting scheduling coordinated by Sami, Marc and I traveled to Palestine to begin production scouting the venue and determining production resources. Marc and I were looking to produce the concert on September 21st during the UN International Day of Peace. Everyone wanted to support the effort however time was against us and there was no prior precedence of a large scale concert like this taking place in Palestine. We missed our September date.
I traveled to NY city and the UN with new Steering Committee member Simon Mainwaring to meet with the heads of UNRWA. Simon was famed as one of the world’s top Advertising and Branding creative directors. The UNRWA program wanted to support our efforts. The head of the program connected me with Fritz Froehlich, the local Middle East representative. After long philosophical talks it was apparent we were on the same page. We began working together with Sami. We again set another target date for September 2009.
It was coming apparent that we just were not going to be able to pull together the necessary sponsorship funding for the concert. I was however determined to deliver the Medical Mission to the Palestinian Government and people as we had planned for the post PPOE concert (September 25th, 2010) activities. On Friday, September 24th, following months of late-late nights and early morning production planning, we made our first official journey. PPOE team members Steve Robertson, Colin Mangham, and Michael Garcia traveled with Dr. Paul Dougherty and his two surgical assistants, Alexis and Marshall Jacobe, all flew from Los Angeles’ LAX airport to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv Israel. From the airport we traveled via United Nations transport through Jerusalem, into Bethlehem, on to Hebron and back to Jerusalem.
As we had been in production planning for months leading up to our original concert target date of September 25, 2010 we had also looked to produce a medical conference and deliver cataract surgical procedures to the elderly and other underprivileged people including UNRWA refugees in Palestine. We began working with St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem to coordinate the cataract surgical gifts being offered by our PPOE colleague, Dr. Paul Dougherty, widely considered to be one of the world’s leading eye surgeons.
Around the first of September in 2009, which notably marked the reinstatement of internationally sanctioned peace accord dialogue between Palestine and Israel, PPOE was informed by USAID that funds previously allocated for the concert were being diverted to more immediate and critical needs in the Gaza Strip, chiefly to help mitigate heightening political issues between Hamas and Fatah. As an unfortunate result, without these funds the Concert would have to be rescheduled.
With plans for the cataract procedures already in place, and patients’ expectations now depending on this PPOE medical mission, Paul and Alexis jumped into action to source the necessary medical supplies. At the same time Sami Khouri at ABS Marketing in Ramallah and Fritz Froehlich of UNRWA set out to procure the necessary funds to transport the medical and production teams, locate hotels and ground transportation, and also help get all of the medical supplies secured to fulfill the promise of gifting vision back to 40 deserving Palestinian people. Sami Abu Dayyeh, owner of the Ambassador Hotel in Bethlehem, graciously offered to sponsor all of our hotel rooms and accommodations during our Medical Mission.
Dr. Jeanne Garth at St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem worked closely with me, Paul and Alexis to do the preparatory background eye examinations and evaluations. Alexis worked tirelessly – seriously, in the truest definition of the word – to secure donations of all of the medical supplies, lenses, and disposables required for the procedures from suppliers and manufacturers. Colin worked what seemed like day and night to help finalize the budget and marketing materials. Michael continued to think through logistics and support me any way he could. And Sami, Fritz, and I worked the phones and blasted out emails looking for the funding to cover the transportation, accommodations and other hard costs.
With about a week left before the scheduled dates, and with the whole mission hanging in the balance, Fritz called to inform me that he had received a funding commitment from his friend Dalell Mohmed at KinderUSA to help with the trip costs. A few days later on September 16, only eight days from our planned departure date on the 24th, Alexis called brimming with excitement to inform me that she had gotten the last and final required donation of disposable surgical packages.
We now had to come up with the rest of the money to put the team on a plane and find a way to ship all of the supplies. The final weekend was heavy upon us. We had less than a week to go and still not nearly enough money. I drove from Los Angeles 90 miles to the home I owned out of town and where I had a real estate agent inventorying the house to sell all the furniture so it could be leased.
Candidly, my back-up plan was to use this money to in part or total to fund the airline tickets. The furniture sale as it turned out generated less than $4,000 – not even close to enough to purchase the airline tickets, and on top of this I was still were looking at an additional $2,000 to overnight ship all of the medical supplies (which, by the way, we managed to transport in four very large and conspicuous bags through some of the toughest airport security in the world – this is for another story).
After days and days of phone calls, often ending at 4am, trying to sell all of my furniture, I must say I was both physically, emotionally exhausted. That Saturday night of September 18th, just six day before our medical team was to get on a plane to Tel Aviv, I decided just to surrender, I had no other choice. I had done everything and all I could possibly do. With this decision there came a sense of calm and serenity. I knew that I and everyone on our team had done all that could have possibly been done. I didn’t know how things were going to be taken care of … however I had a strong sense that it would. All I could do was detach and turn it over into God’s hands, where it was already.
The following morning I awoke relaxed, at peace and feeling assured that everything was going to work out one way or another. I did my regular mediation and completed my prosperity affirmation. I decided to drive to the nearby Starbucks, get a cup of coffee and check for emails. As I sat and started to sip my coffee and sort through emails looking hopefully for a reply of support, at precisely 9:53 am, my cell phone rang. It was Sami … “Some good news, Steve.”
I thought to myself, I could sure use some Good News. He continued, “Hashim Shawa, the President of the Bank of Palestine, has committed $20,000 to cover all of the airline tickets, and Sami (Abu-Dayyeh) at the Ambassador Hotel will cover all of the rooms and put on a thank you function for the team.” Tears poured from my eyes. I was overwhelmed with a soulful gratitude and thanks that, even now, is so humbling to describe. I thanked Sami over and over again through my tears and quivering voice. The trip was now on.
Our adventures in finding a way to transport all of our medical supplies to St. John’s, all of the amazing people we met, the eye opening perspectives of the scope of Israeli settlements in Palestine, the in-depth interviews on the conflict and the perspective of people who were given new vision will all be the subject of a documentary film called “Visions of Peace,” being directed by Michael and produced by Colin and myself. The team was filming almost the whole time and captured some amazing footage. More to come soon, but for now, in this moment…
To each generous person who donated funds, accommodations, services, medical supplies and even music; who helped to advise us; who serves on our PPOE Steering and/or Advisory team …
To Paul Dougherty, Colin Mangham and Michael Garcia who took time out of their typically wall-to-wall weekly schedules to fully embrace this mission now accomplished …
To Todd Brown and Kenny Fields at West Post Digital, who have supported PPOE with office space, technical expertise, post-production services, big hearts and much more …
To our own PPOE colleagues Gregory Markel and Marc Scarpa, and Paul’s team Alexis and Marshall Jacobe …
To each organization and person listed in the video credits, including Dr. Khuloud Daibes (Palestinian Tourism Minister), Hashim Shawa (Bank of Palestine), Sami Abu-Dayyeh (NET Tours), Sami Khoury (ABS), Fritz Froehlich (UNRWA), Dr. Jeanne Garth, Dr. Abdul Malek Jaber, Dr. Riyadh, Dallel Mohmed (KinderUSA), Said Murad (Sabreen), and Dr. Kayed Kalayka …
And to everyone, every kind person who offered to help, made a small contribution, offered a kind word of encouragement…a prayer for success…
I thank you from my heart.
In fact, we all thank you from our hearts. We did this all together. We collectively made a difference in the lives of 40 very deserving and grateful people. We’ve helped show the world that we can each make a difference in bringing love and healing to one another…a step toward, yes indeed, peace on earth.
Moving towards our November 11, 2011 (11.11.11) projected concert date we did a fundraiser in October just a month prior to the date. The event, though well produced was not well attended. We just had to short of time to promote it. In the end it raised little money. We were however fortunate enough, at that time and during that night, to have received and announced from the Minister of Tourism a formal confirmation from the Palestinian Govt. that they would be covering some $500K of the total production.
We now appeared to have the funding for our concert or so it would ultimately seem. We moved into high gear around this funding commitment, again with the Prayer Cycle album as the overall centerpiece of the concert. Shortly here after, following the heals of Pres. Abbas’s speech at the UN (end of Sept), Palestine was bidding to join the UN and took as an interim step a bid to become a UNESCO world heritage site. This resolution was passed and was immediately met by the US proclaiming to withhold funding to UNESCO and the Israeli Govt. withholding of some $100M in levied tax revenues from Palestinian businesses due to be returned to the Palestinian Authority to run their government.
During this same time we were attempting to get on formal letterhead and seal of approval the commitment of funding from the Minister. I went to bed for days on end grinding my teeth in frustration event though I was meditating. She was traveling abroad around the UNESCO adoption process, and unlike how things work here, no one on her staff could stamp and sign for her. We were loosing valuable time everyday and could not formally reach out to other sponsors without this official confirmation.
Early Saturday morning everyone loaded into the Tour Bus and we arrive to a packed Bethlehem and Manger Square. The stage set-up was not organized. We were facing gail-force winds that threatened to strip the makeshift roof off of the stage. Mic and music stands had no sand bags on them and were blowing over. They didn’t have sand bags so I desperately called to Sami to bring twelve water ottles to me so that I could tape them together and fabricate some weigh-downs for all of the stands. I hussled to help get the balance of the instruments in place including the key board. We quickly brought all of the musicans onto stage and literally just pulled off them singing and the filming of them performing the song “Imagine” – 30 seconds after they completed the song the Muslim Mosque chant occurred.
Marc Scarpa, our broadcast director and his assistant Victor…finished the last show on the X-Factor on Thursday evening late and on Friday morning they were on a plane which landed in Tel Aviv on Saturday afternoon. This was just in time to connect back at the Bethlehem Convention Palace with the video taping team from Manger Square so that the images of the “Imagine” song could be cut into the live broadcast the following day. Marc and Victor both attended the Saturday night midnight mass at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem capturing additional images for the broadcast got back to the hotel in Jerusalem at 3am. They had a local editing team work through Saturday night through Sunday morning the editing on the video broadcast inserts.
The following day, Sunday, all of the artists loaded into the bus and we headed for the Convention Palace for an 11Am arrival. Marc and Victor were there ahead of us waiting for our Israeli Broadcast truck. It arrived 5 hours late at 3:30PM leaving Marc no time to block the camera shots. The theater projector had blown a card and we scrambled to find another projector to replace this one directly above the stage. Scaffolding had to be constructed to get to the projector and replace it…blocking our ability to do rehearsals on stage.
The broadcast truck operator, after arriving late, was uncooperative in allowing Marc and Victor to install necessary equipment to make the broadcast happen… eventually did allow this to occur. The show host, that we located only at the day before, who had been driven in from Jordan show day morning and while crossing the bridge in Amman was now being held at an Israeli check point, as we found out, only hours away from the concert go live, she was being held up in a silent security quarantine – been there for hours – no one was talking to her. Fritz used UN security connections to have her released. She got the the Palace somewhat frazzled.
I frantically worked to tweak the script and show run down. There was no time for a full run through. Still issues in getting the newly installed projector to work…moments away from the live show… The Palestinian Government now wanted the show to be spoken in Arabic as well. Our show host is freaked out about this. She’s never worked on camera before and having to translate the script on the fly was too much to ask. I make the call to do it in English only and have another team set up a translator back stage to do the Arabic. The projector is finally fixed. I have to replace the stage manager a the very last moment. We’re ready we go live without at run through or any real rehearsal. We go live…
Fortunately, it all worked well and I’m pleased with the show. Joanne showed up to perform with Gary Nicholson with a dead mic and couldn’t hear herself (happens even at the Grammy’s as we just saw) but other than that, the show turned out real well.
Randy Copus of the musical group 2002, one of our PPOE Musical Ambassadors is currently help us to re-edit all the show elements in post.
We will have an amazing final product that will further help us share the universal message of love and peace on our planet.
As most do not know, I left for Palestine having spent everything I owed to produce the event. I/we fulfilled on our commitment to taking care of all of the artists, Marc, Victor and we had just enough to do this, not a penny more. I returned exhausted on every possible level. In the days that followed my return I learned that my Father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He was given 3-6 months. He underwent a new type of chemo therapy and worked to complete the final treatments. The PET scan would later reveal a new problem, brain cancer. I attempted to take some rest as best I possibly could under the the stress of having to restart financial streams and dealing with my Father’s illness. The first month felt somewhat like it must have felt to our first astronauts who landed and walked on the moon. I had accomplished a life long dream and what world entertainment experts said could not have been done.
In reflection, our December 25, 2011 concert in Palestine was an important step that has now moved us past the proof of concept phase for PPOE. Most importantly, we did it. It was a 25 year journey for me. Sami and Fritz were courageous and amazing on everly level. This vision and concert could have never been accomplished without them. They are heroes in my heart.
Fortunately, we had a positive practice run that puts us in a stronger position to produce a much larger show, one that we want to feature the Prayer Cycle albums. Fortunately, the Convention Palace is now a turn key facility and there will be no future need for outside broadcast trucks. The Bethlehem Convention Palace is owned by Consolidated Construction Company, the world’s largest construction company. They have plans to create a large concert amphitheater 25,000 plus person plus outside of the Solomon Pools area that are part of this 50 acre complex. The owner of the Convention Palace is a weatlhy and kind Palestinian man who has committed a large sum of money towards the promotion of Bethlehem.
Having rested and recovered from our first concert I spent the next several months putting together a sustainable business plan to help reposition and market the Bethlehem Convention Palace (CPC) and Palestine to the world. I was frequently up until the wee hours of the morning talking with George, the manager of the CPC. Along with this plan I had outlined the theme and scope of our next planned PPOE concert and aerial art initiative for the Christmas Day celebration. The theme in following our first concert and aerial art initiative entitled “Love All”, was to be called ”Free All.” Getting the necessary letter of confirming support from the Minister’s office was like juggling jello. We could not move ahead officially without this official letter of support.
As October approached I learned my Father’s brain cancer was worsening. I made arrangements to fly to Kerrville, TX to say my last good byes to Him. I spent as much time with him as I could in between all of the time he was sleeping. It was a time that stretched my faith to its utter limits. The grief was felt overwhelming.
In November, just following my trip to visit for the last time with my Father, and after months and months of planning we were now up against a go or no go milestone schedule.
George and I worked to trim our budget back to a bare minimum and focus only on the aerial initiative. We would have to abandon the concert part of the peace initiative. At the last moment, George was able to secure our budget from the Convention Palace’s parent company Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). John Quigley (Quigley), our PPOE Advisory Board member and producing partner and I had defined all of the production parameters and secured a team to help us in Palestine. The George and the CPC team were prepared.
Time was flying by and the date of December 25th was racing towards us. A new Minister of Tourism was now in place in Palestine and George and I worked around the clock to bring her up to speed and enroll her support. All of our musicians were on board to perform and yet we (George, his team and myself) could not find sponsorship funding to fly anyone to Palestine or produce the concert. I had to make the decision to abandon the concert idea and notify all of our musicians. Everyone was very understanding and remained committed to support the effort in any way.
George had secured a travel agency to front the purchase of the airline tickets for our team. He had also arranged for our hotel in Bethlehem at Jacir Palace. I left on the Monday afternoon of December 17th and arrived on Tuesday the 18th. Quigley and team were to arrive on the 20th. After arriving and later in the evening I was attend the pre-Christmas celebration festivities in Manger Square with various political and social dignitaries. Exhausted and in the freezing cold, I sat next to the retiring Mayor of Bethlehem and the new Minister of Tourism. After this function I was driven to the Convention Palace for a VIP dinner with the Prime Minister, newly elected Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun and numerous others.
There, I was introduced to Alladin, one of the heads of Ma’an TV, a mini CNN like news agency for Palestine based in Bethlehem. I arranged to meet with him the following day to discuss our overall plans and determine to what degree their network would support us with publicity and/or TV coverage. I returned back to the hotel late and started to feel like a cold was coming on.
The following morning, and prior to my meeting with Alladin and Maan TV, I was driven to meet with the Mayor of Bethlehem and connect in person after spending, what seemed, numerous hours on the phone. There in her assistant’s office there were cases of newly printed tourist brochures that outlined the schedule of events planned for the Bethlehem Christmas day festivities. As I thumbed through the brochure I noted an announcement for our Project Peace On Earth initiative. It talked about the big concert that PPOE was hold on Christmas Eve, a concert that was no longer on the drawing board for any of our plans.
My mind was reeling about how to handle this and about what to do about it. I was already in overwhelm relative to all of the logistical and political logistics required to pull of our planned and funded aerial art initiative. Having prior anticipated the possibility of producing more of a virtual concert, I had written an outreach letter to each of our PPOE Musical Ambassadors. The letter in essence outlined the financial and logistical reality of why we were not able to pull off a live concert as prior planned. Instead, I requested that each submit a personal message and a live/taped performance that we would assemble into a concert show.
From the Mayor’s office I was driven to Maan TV were I was scheduled to meet with Alladin. He toured me though the impressive operations of their broadcast center. I discussed and reviewed our plans for the peace initiative and their interest in supporting the efforts. He and the network were on board to help. I also showed him the city of Bethlehem brochure that referenced the concert, which was now, no longer planned for or scheduled. I suggested that relative to this issue that we could, as I had prior conceived, produce a virtual concert. He was intrigued and I inquired specifically if he would support the production of this given my prior written outreach letter to musicians.
He was an enthusiastic YES. He was on board and to consummate our deal I reached my hand out to his and shake it, while my outreach letter sat, ready to be pushed out from my laptop. I said “Are you ready and prepared to do this?” His reply, “Yes.” I excitedly pushed the button on the email out to all of our musicians.
Alladin assigned me an amazing producer to compile and edit all of the performers messages and music into a concert. I was getting sick and Alladin kindly drove me to a Pharmacy to get some medication to fight off the cold that kicking up in my chest.
Back at the Hotel and late through the night I made calls back to the states to follow-up with musicians. My first call was to Jon Anderson of YES. He was in and glad to support the concert. I told him how important and relevant his song Polonaise would be to feature during the virtual show. I next called Serj Tankian, lead singer from the group System of A Down. He was in.
I worked the phone through the early morning and finally fell asleep just as the sun was rising. Shortly thereafter I heard a huge explosion which sounded as though it occurred right at the hotel. The building shook. I would later discover that Palestinian militants had detonated a bomb at the base of the Israeli guard tower that was about 100 yards away from the Jacir Palace where gate opened to original road into Bethlehem. This was one of the sites we were looking at for the Free All event.
I awoke feeling both exhausted, sick and excited. My cold was getting serious. I pounded down as much vitamin C as my body could handle. I met with some support people George had lined up for myself and our team. They were a great gift in helping get things accomplished.
The USA Sandy Hook incident was getting global attention, I called George and I scheduled a meeting with the Mayor. I suggested, given the tragedy of this situation happening so closely to Christmas Day that we/Bethlehem could bring some comfort to the hearts of those affected by acknowledging the loss of the children and adults. I suggested that this would be best accomplished through placing angels (one for each person lost) on the Manger Square Christmas tree. The Mayor agreed and also suggested that we find a way to honor the lives of the some 450 children that had just been lost in the bombing of Gaza. We would do this through placing a large angel to represent the children as a collective.
I informed the Major that I would go out and secure the angels and then the city would place them. I argued back and forth with the city people about placing them on the main tree and the politics of this was turning into a major headache. They pointed out the original and permanent Bethlehem Christmas tree as possible place to put the angels. I agreed. Perfect. I was driven around the city to find some ready made angels to put on the tree. None were to be found. I ran upon one of the major tourist souvenir shops in town and met with the owner to explain the situation and what we were looking to accomplish. He immediately said he was into help and would produce the angels for us at no charge. After detailing the design with him we agreed to that I would pick them up up the following day. His woodworker would work throughout the night to complete them.
Here is the result of all of the love, care and generosity of this gift to the memory of children lost in violence.
John Quigley and team would soon arrive and I was meeting with George, his team and the mayors office team, the governor of the region to address the scope of production issues, including meeting with the local boy scout troop leaders, who were to participate in the aerial art initiatives. It was none stop meetings. There in between I was on the phone and/or computer doing emails and Skype calls with musicians to enroll their participation in the virtual concert.
….MORE ON THIS PICTURE BELOW AS PART OF THE OVERALL STORY SOON…
You can see in the just above photo, where on we did our Free All New Years Eve 2012 initiative, where the black spot at the base of the tower marked where the bomb was detonated. This situation caused a huge logistical problem for our planned activities.
For twenty-five years I’ve never lost sight of the vision of producing the Concert. A vision that we brought into reality on 12.25.11, Christmas Day, in Bethlehem. I returned back to Los Angeles, exhausted with, and with the original $200 I had left with.
My heart felt thanks to each and every person along the way that helped to support me and the vision of the concert in anyway.
With blessings and peace,