The East Valley’s Pangean Orchestra, which gathers musicians and instruments from various cultures, has achieved nonprofit status and is now looking for four board members and five volunteers.
“By being recognized, we open Pangean up to a vast wealth of people power,” said orchestra founder Colin O’Donohoe of Chandler.
“We believe our organization is a force for good that others would want to be a part of,” he said. “Volunteers can be a part of a powerful organization spreading a message of peace and understanding among diverse people.”
Nonprofit status enables the group to accept tax-deductible donations.
Moreover, O’Donohoe added, many companies encourage and reward employees to volunteer in their community if the organization is a federally recognized nonprofit.
The Pangean Orchestra, earlier known as The Immigrant Orchestra, was founded in 2010 by O’Donohoe with the aim of uniting people with the language of music.
Musicians drawn from various countries play their traditional instruments, harmonizing seemingly incompatible instruments such as the stringed qanun, from Iraq; the percussion tabla, from India and the goblet drum, djembe, from West Africa.
They play music in new ways.
Members of the group, now numbering 100, have performed in the East Valley, New York and Turkey.
All members don’t play in each concert as the number of musicians at a concert depends on the stage and what the venue can afford to pay.
Pangean has held concerts at the Tempe History Museum since 2011, averaging about 160 attendees – a full house for the place.
A concert is tentatively planned for next July.
“They fill up our stage and it is always a fun challenge to set up sound for such varied instruments – from didgeridoos to tablas to cellos to sitars,” said Dan Miller, the museum’s exhibit curator. “They always theme the show around creating a small bit of world peace by bringing together musicians from all over the world.”
Due to COVID-19, no concerts are slated for 2020; the group is using the down time to plan and raise money for next year.
The Pangean’s mission and motive is relevant today as never before. Together, the musicians are dedicated to promoting understanding among a diverse population.
O’Donohoe’s description of a potential volunteer underscores its mission
“If someone is looking for a meaningful way to change the hurtful rhetoric of hatred against minority groups and wants to offer an alternative to the ignorance and hate, it is my hope they would find what Pangean is doing as a great group to work with,” he said.
“We show everyone how working together can sound amazing and give such a strong positive feeling.”
A typical volunteer, besides being motivated and engaged, should believe that by working for Pangean, they are doing good for the community.
“Often, someone begins as a volunteer and wants to become more helpful by being a board member and taking ownership over solving problems faced by Pangean,” O’Donohoe said.
Volunteers also should have different perspectives.
“I hope that the people volunteering are as diverse as the musicians. We can only be a global orchestra when we have global personnel offering many approaches to our endeavors,” he said.
Volunteers should also ideally work outside of music and have business and communication skills and a passion to see the orchestra grow in popularity and success, O’Donohoe added.
The former mayor of Gilbert, John Lewis, is a fan of the group and said he was glad to hear of its continued success.
“Part of a ‘clean, safe, vibrant’ community includes the blessing of individuals like Colin who have vision and persistence,” he wrote from Cambodia, where he’s currently serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The Pangean Orchestra adds vibrancy to a community and brings communities together from all over the world.”
Miller said a Pangean Orchestra concert is the quintessential gathering of such diverse community members in a most entertaining way.
“We are a community history museum that welcomes performances by members of our diverse community. The orchestra is always welcome at Tempe History Museum,” he said.
The path forward is not always smooth for the group.
Last year, O’Donohue ran a crowdfunding campaign to record professional videos and recordings and fell far short of the goal. Instead, he used the funds to apply for the 501c3 status to solidify as a company.
O’Donohue wants to make Pangean a household name.
“I want us to be a shining example of what happens when many different people work together,” he said.
“A year ago, we said that our country was in a vulnerable place with tension among our people at a high level. Sadly, over the next year we’ve seen the anger from a year ago turn into violence,” he added.
“We need Pangean desperately in our country. We need powerful examples of different people working and creating together as a catalyst for a real change in our mentality towards co-existence and mutual respect for one another,” he said.