The 1960’s were a tumultuous time, dominated by division over issues such as the war in Vietnam, and the fight for civil rights. Up with People founder J. Blanton Belk saw “the ability of young people to do what governments had failed to do: to walk across borders, see beyond race, and build bridges of understanding between people.” He wanted to harness the energy of the youth movement and turn the negativism of the era into a chance for young people to have a voice in creating positive change.
When Up with People was born in 1965 – formed out of a summer youth conference – our early leaders discovered the power of music for bringing together people of different mindsets, cultures, ethnicities, and beliefs. Up with People took to the streets and soon became a global music and education phenomena, inspiring communities with a message of peace and unity. Over time, Up with People grew to be known worldwide for bridging cultural gaps and participating in international relations and education.
As we look at the fast-paced world we live in today, Up with People is as relevant and needed as it was in the 1960’s. Our unique blend of music and social action creates the chance for youth to develop a new understanding of the world, recognize the responsibility they have to others, and become global citizens by acting as positive agents of change.
We are proud to share these key moments in our history. They prove by acting from a place of hope and optimism, we can unite countries, cultures, and communities, and join forces in making the world a more hopeful, peaceful and trusting place.
Images from Up with People Archive (MS 491), courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections
©Up with People
1965 – The Beginning
Sing Out ‘65 performs the first public shows on August 7th and 8th before 2800 people at the Ezio Pinza Outdoor Theater in North Stamford, CT.
1965 – Building Bridges of Understanding
The first cast traveled to Jordan High School in Watts, CA after the Watts Riots, performing for students and using music to unite the crowd in a time of turmoil.
This began a long history of Up with People bringing people together in difficult times, including Boston and Atlanta during desegregation, Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1974 during The Troubles, the Soviet Union during the height of Glasnost in 1986, and an Up with People cast was present to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in Goslar with West and East Germans in 1989.
1966 – Performing for World Leaders
Sing Out casts meet President Dwight Eisenhower in Gettysburg, PA and President Harry S. Truman in Independence, MO in May, 1966.
Up with People has had a long history of performing for world leaders, bring people of all political parties together. Starting with a performance in 1965 at the Washington Hilton, arranged by a 95 person congressional committee from both political parties, to a performance for Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in West Germany in 1966. In 1986, Up with People performed at the 20th Annual United Nations Ambassadors’ Dinner.
Casts have also performed for:
- President Bill Clinton (1993)
- President George H.W. Bush (1993)
- Vice President Hubert Humphrey
- Margaret Thatcher (1993)
- 55th President of Mexico, Vincente Fox in Denver (2017)
- and may others!
Throughout the years Up with People has performed for many royalty including:
- King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium (1969)
- H.R.H. Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom and Lord Snowden (1973)
- King Juan Carlos of Spain (1979)
- King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan (1984)
- Prince Henri and Princess Marie-Thérèse of Luxembourg (1984)
- Queen Silvia of Sweden (2010)
- H.R.H. Princess Margriet and her husband, Pieter van Vollenhoven of the Netherlands at Wassenaar (2011)
- Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco (January 1968)
- and many others!
1970 – On the World’s Stage
Up with People appears at Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Japan from May 31-June 2, 1970
Did you know? Up with People and the UWPIAA performed at a total of eight World Expos!
1972 – Turning Tragedy to Hope
1968 – On AIR
Up with People’s first NBC TV special introduced by Bob Hope and sponsored by Coca-Cola and Reader’s Digest on August 23, 1968
Up with People also had the following TV Specials:
- In 1965, Up with People recorded the Schick TV Spectacular featuring the Sing Out ‘65 musical Up with People broadcast on nine national TV stations to an audience of 100 million in 1966.
- In 1968, Up with People filmed a TV special in the Congo.
- In 1969, the Up with People NBC television special airs. This special was sponsored by Coca-Cola and Reader’s Digest.
- Up with People presents first TV special with Televisa in Mexico in 1969.
- The Up with People CBS TV special is broadcast nationwide in the U.S.A in 1973.
- Up with People presents three more TV specials with Televisa in Mexico in 1977.
- In 1978, Up with People records a TV2 special, Stockholm, Sweden.
- In 1981 Coca Cola sponsors the Americana Trail TV special featuring Up with People.
- Up with People appears on Switzerland’s “In Concert” TV program for a TV special in Zurich.
- Up with People’s Cast performed in the Arena der Sensation TV special broadcast on New Year Year’s Eve, 1984. Millions of viewers saw the show which was shown at prime time on German, Swiss and Austrian television stations.
- In 1984, Up with People performed on the German television show Auf Los
- Up with People records a one hour tv special that aired on Venevision in Venezula in 1979.
- In 1990, Russian TV broadcast a one hour special about the cast tour of the Ukraine the year before called “Hello, Ukraine”</lo
1976 – Changing the Super Bowl Halftime Show
Up with People becomes the first non-marching band to perform during a halftime show at Super Bowl X in Miami, FL on January 18, 1976, forever changing the format of the Super Bowl halftime show.
Up with People returns to perform three more halftime shows for :
- Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena, CA, January 20, 1980
- Super Bowl XVI in Pontiac, MI, January 24, 1982
- Super Bowl XX in New Orleans, January 26, 1986
1980 – Performing with Symphonies around the world
Up with People cast performs with the Belgian National Orchestra at Palais de Beaux-Arts in Brussels to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Belgium.
Other Performances include:
- Up with People performs with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in a combined concert, Jan. 29, 1978. This event began a tradition of Up with People performing with a professional orchestra
- Up with People performance with the Dallas Symphony at the Cotton Bowl for a crowd of 20,000 in 1978
- Up with People and the Denver Symphony Orchestra performed “in the round” at Boettcher Auditorium before a capacity audience of 2600 on Sept. 15, 1979. Encore performances were in 1981 and 1985
- Performance with the Boston Popsat Hatch Shell, Boston, MA, USA in 1982
1984 – Performances for Four Popes
Did you know? Up with People casts have performed for four Pope’s a total of 16 times!
Casts performed for Pope Paul VI three times in Vatican City from 1968 to 1973.
Casts performed for Pope John Paul II ten times from 1981 to 1999, including a performance at Piazza San Pietro, Ottawa Airport welcoming ceremony in Canada, and World Youth Day, Denver, CO, USA.
A WorldSmart cast performed for Pope Benedict XVI in June 2005
Casts performed for Pope Francis I twice in Piazza San Pietro.
1993 – World Youth Day
Cast performs for Pope John Paul II and for U.S. President Bill Clinton in Denver, CO for World Youth Day August, 1993
Up with People performs for World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 for an unprecedented second time.
1994 – Performing for National and International Events
New Year Eve’s 1994 in Hong Kong sponsored by the Urban Council and Hong Kong Telecom
Up with People has been invited to participate in many national and international events and celebrations around the world, including:
- National Scout Jamboree for 34,000 Boy Scouts in 1969
- National 4-H Congress in Chicago in 1967
- Performances in in 771 cities in 48 states for 3.9 million people during the Bicentennial tour of the United States in 1975-76
- Belgian National Orchestra at the Palais de Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1980 to celebrate Belgium’s 150th anniversary.
- During the week of July 4th, 1991 casts perform in front of the Washington Monument, Washington, DC; in front of the USS Constitution in Boston, MA; at the Freedom Festival in Philadelphia, PA at Folsom Stadium in Boulder, CO and at Texas Stadium, Dallas
- During Taiwan’s National Day for the President of Taiwan in a televised celebrations in Taipei in 2012
- United Nations’ Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012
Additionally, Up with People participated in international sporting events including:
- Munich Olympics (1972)
- Halftime Performance at Canadian Football League Western Conference Final in Edmonton on Nov. 19, 1978
- Annual White House Annual Easter Egg Hunt (1983)
- Performance for the National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, CO, sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee (1982)
- Performed as part of the opening ceremonies at the International Special Olympics Games at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. (1983)
- Performance at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the International Summer Special Olympics World Games, South Bend, IN (1987)
- Atlanta Olympics – Coca Cola Pavilion (1996)
2000 – A Common Beat
In 2000, Up with People’s newly developed show called ” A Common Beat” makes its world premiere in Detroit, Michigan. After the show toured for a year, Up with People suspended operations. The show was licensed to NPO Common Beat, and in 2004 “A Common Beat” premieres in Japan.
Since its founding, NPO Common Beat has performed in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Ishinomaki in Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, and at Up with People Reunions in Tucson, AZ, USA and Orlando, FL, USA.
To learn more about NPO Common Beat visit commonbeat.org
2008 – Parades
Up with People produces and performs in the Opening Ceremony of the 119th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA, January 1, 2008 and performed again in the opening ceremony in 2011.
Up with People also was the featured performers at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 1986 and again in 2007.
2014 – Visiting Places of Consequence
Just like when Up with People made its first visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1978, becoming the first multi-national youth group to visit the country in 29 years, casts continue to visit places of consequence.
Casts in 2014 made Up with People’s first visits to Israel and Cuba. In June 2014 Up with People made history by performing in Ramat Gan, Israel during a tense time in Israel’s history for an enthusiastic audience of 1,500.
At the invitation of the Ministerio de Cultura de la República de Cuba Up with People made history again by performing in Havana for the first time on Oct. 24, 2014. The Cuban US Minister to the Mission in Cuba said “Never before has Cuba experienced 15 nations, including American’s, performing together.”
2015 – Celebrating a Milestone
Up with People launches 50th Anniversary tour with special events in Denver, Tucson, Orlando, Mexico City, Brussels, and Rome.
Click here to watch “The Journey” performance at the 50th Reunion in Orlando.
2016 – Working with Youth from Around The World
Up with People works with youth in every city we visit. The majority of this interaction happens in schools, as we present classroom workshops on appreciating diversity, share our cultures by hosting booths at a “Culture Fest”, and/ or perform a shorter version of our show. We also partner with after school programs and youth service clubs to support the work they are already doing to engage youth in their communities.
2017 – Impacting Communities
Since the early years of Up with People, casts have been volunteering throughout their tour. Since our beginning cast members have completed over 3.1 million hours of service in communities around the world.
Click here to read more about UWP’s community action projects.
Up with People’s rich and expansive history is captured in an archive housed at the University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections. The collection contains a range of materials from photographs and print publications, to scores, musical arrangements, and programs from 1965-1999. Learn More
- Current Newsletters
- Lyrics Collection
- UWP Classics YouTube Channel
- Digital Collection at University of Arizona
- Super Bowl History
- Full Up with People History Timeline