Michael Trainer is the type of person who takes his dreams and turns them into reality. He’s got a “bring it on” mentality for creating change in the world; no vision is too big for him…in fact, he fully embodies his own mantra that “big vision attracts wonderful people.” Michael is the co-creator and executive producer of a massive music festival taking place on The Great Lawn in Central Park this Saturday: The Global Citizen Festival. This concert isn’t just an ordinary concert (because as you’re about to find out, there’s nothing ordinary about anything Michael Trainer sets his heart on). The whole purpose of the festival is to end extreme poverty. Thanks in large part to Michael and his team’s efforts to actively raise awareness to this worldwide issue through the power of music, the goal of completely wiping out extreme poverty IN OUR LIFETIME feels like an attainable one.
This year’s concert is already at capacity, but for the first time ever, you can watch it live on MSNBC and MSNBC.com at 3pm ET, this coming Saturday, September 27th. Jay Z, No Doubt, Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Tiësto, and Sting (who was just announced as the latest addition) will all take the stage with their efforts going toward ending extreme poverty by 2030. In the last 35 years, this epidemic has been cut in half, and the concertgoers’ efforts to end extreme poverty have already, in two years, resulted in funds of over $1 billion that were allocated to the poor. That’s right — the people who attend the concert are just as powerful as the musicians themselves. How? Well, in order to gain access to the concert, you have to head to the website and take a series of action steps that result in points toward a ticket since you can’t actually buy a ticket. Wait…what?
It’s true. When Michael and his team were first trying to lock down a location for the festival, they quickly learned that they weren’t legally allowed to sell tickets for a show taking place on The Great Lawn. Rather than letting themselves be discouraged, they used this brief setback to inspire action from concertgoers through their mobile app and site, setting up a system where you can only get tickets to festival through your actions around issues affecting the world. You get points, enter into a lottery, and earn your ticket to The Great Lawn, so everyone there has done something to earn being there. Talk about a win-win.
This is yet another example of how Michael tends to find a positive in every situation. Years back, while Michael was living in Sri Lanka, he was completely moved by the way the villages used their own positivity as a proactive tool to keep their community in unity. He said he was amazed by how “It was all centered around music and ritual. When someone falls out of community, the village comes together and spends two weeks creating an elaborate stage where they dance from sunset to sunrise, bringing them back into balance with the community.” As he ventured on his travels to some of the poorest parts of the world, he wanted to do something to help them and just couldn’t rid himself of the Sri Lankan mentality of taking care of each other.
He realized that the sad, guilt-inducing images and video clips we had gotten so used to seeing about extreme poverty (he calls them “poverty porn,” because they “do nothing to inspire, only make people feel bad”) weren’t doing anything to inspire action. Yet when people feel like they can make a difference, they’re empowered. Then he had an idea, why not bring people together through the one language that everyone understands: music!? Why not remind everyone that we’re not just citizens of our country, but we’re citizens of the world. We’re global citizens.
As the pieces started to come together, the right people also banded together with Michael — very quickly — and he suddenly found himself at the forefront of a movement. It wasn’t easy, but every time a NO came up in their beginning phases, he and his team found a way to spin that no into a yes…through passionate persistence, and keeping their eyes on the end goal: to create a concert that would impact lives forever. Now that is something I can rock out to.