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Up with People

Up with People (UWP) is the name of both a motivational organization and a musical performance, both related to each other.

The organization is made up of troupes which sing and perform internationally. Along with performing the show, cast members participate in community impact activities and assist volunteer organizations as a way to give back to the communities that host them. Today the size of the troupe has been scaled back. Currently the organization has two groups traveling each year, one from January to June and the other from July to December.


Up with People started in 1965. The debut roster featured a cast of 140 volunteers performing at a summer convention of Moral Re-Armament on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Moral Re-Armament (MRA) is an international group founded by Frank Buchman in 1938, and continues to operate under the name "Initiatives of Change." The Executive Director of Moral Re-Armament in the mid-1960s, J. Blanton Belk, described M.R.A. as an "expeditionary force from all faiths and races engaged in a race with time to modernize the character and purpose of man. It is love of home, homeland, and humanity. It is absolute moral standards as a compass in personal and national life. It is the firm conviction that enough God-loving men and women can be found who, by example and dedication, will provide leadership whose aim is to right what is wrong in the world..." Belk was the founder of "Up With People." The current "Up With People" organization has no ties to "Moral Re-Armament" or "Initiatives of Change."

Young people from many countries were represented in the performance of "Sing-Out 65". The cast of Sing-Out 65 traveled to Japan at the invitation of the Prime Minister, with cast members staying in private homes, including the homes of members of parliament. The cast performed on Japanese television and on the Kabuki Stage in Tokyo. Traveling throughout the country — from the island of Hokkaido in the north, to Tokyo and by train to Kobe — the cast took a ferry to South Korea. In South Korea the cast performed at military facilities and visited the Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjeom. Sing Out Asia was formed from the visits of the US national casts and several albums were recorded from Sing Out Asia.

Back in the U.S., the cast became 'Sing-Out 66.' The show toured around the country, attracting volunteers and led to the formation of three "Up with People" casts (A, B, and C). With these multiple casts the show sang and performed for audiences around the world including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Central and South America, and Japan. Training and recruitment festivals were held on Fort Slocum, an island off New Rochelle, New York, for several summers in the mid-1960s.

Students around the world applied to join Sing Out 66/ "Up With People," and the organization began to encourage formation of local and regional "Sing Out" groups. Several editions of "How to Create a Sing Out" were published and offered music and staging directions to local "Sing Out" casts. Members of the larger traveling casts would often visit the local groups for encouragement and unity of purpose. The national organization also published a newspaper, Tomorrow's American News, incorporating news of the "Up With People" casts and that of the many regional "Sing Out" groups.

In 1968 the name was changed to "Up with People," incorporated as a non profit organization and severed ties with MRA. Up With People's relationship to local "Sing Out" casts wained in the late 1960s and finally broke affilication with the Sing Out Program in 1968. Without the support of UWP, the local Sing Outs accross the country began to fade themselves.

In 1971, a group of local Sing Out representatives met in Waco, Texas for the first conference of the National Sing Out Action Council (NSOAC) which in 1977, would become People International Inc. (Pii) A group that still travels and performs today.

Over the years, the Sing-Outs and Up with People played in diverse venues around the U.S., including universities, high schools, hockey arenas, the Hollywood Bowl, National Conventions for Republicans and Democrats, the Air Force Academy, Ft. Benning, Ft. Campbell, and many more. In 1976, Up with People performed the National Anthem at the Indianapolis 500. Most notably, from 1976 to 1986, Up with People performed in four Super Bowl halftime shows.

Faced with dire finances, Up With People's Board of Directors voted in December, 2000, to suspend operations. People attending the show in Denmark were outraged by the high ticket prices. While it appeared to be the end of the popular upbeat show, many approaches to re-organization were explored, with the results being the WordlSmart Leadership Program in 2004 and a re-organized "Up With People" touring group commencing in 2005 and continuing.

WorldSmart Leadership Program

In August 2004, the first semester of the WorldSmart Leadership Program was launched. Now a 4 1/2-month program, the first crew traveled to about 18 cities in North America, Japan, and Europe, starting off with an orientation session in Denver, Colorado, United States. Each crew spent a week in each city, living mainly with host families.

While there is still a performance element, it is not the core focus of the program; now known as the Celebration, it was a short presentation of dance, music, singing, multimedia, speech, and acting, as well as sharing their experiences of the city. The Celebration's aim was to get the people of the local community together with people from all over the world.

Besides the Celebration, other main elements of the WorldSmart Leadership Program include:

  • Direct Instruction — college-level courses and discussions on topics such as leadership, intercultural communication, and world conflict. Some students elected to take actual college classes offered by the University of Colorado-Denver, while others attended general discussion sessions (known as "Stone Soup").
  • Regional Learning — learning about the local area and community through tours, guest speakers, courtesy visits, and special activities (e.g. scavenger hunts, workshops, panels). Some of these activities included a visit to a juvenile detention centre, a tea ceremony, the World Expo in Toyota, Aichi, and lunch in a high school made up predominantly of immigrants.
  • Community Impact — various community service projects based on various issues, such as education, the environment, immigration, discrimination, the arts, and many more. Projects ranged from visiting schools and interacting with students, to learning about different world faiths.
  • Professional Development — internships and special projects in various sections, such as external relations or applied education. Students are also free to organize and run special projects of their own — amongst such projects include a Language Exchange and an in-house magazine.

Besides this, many other side projects and activities were also run and organized by both staff and students, allowing them to use the skills they have learned through the program.

Three semesters of the program have traveled so far: August 2004, February 2005, and August 2005.

Current program

In September 2005, a restructured Up with People program was introduced.

Today, Up with People provides a six month international leadership program for young adults (ages 18 to 29) from around the world. Each Up with People “cast” of up to 100 participants travels together to at least two continents and often to more than six countries with diverse cultural, political, and economic conditions.

The program emphasizes community projects with international service partners and a global education curriculum. The current show is a multi-media, intercultural program that uses music and dance that attempts to educate the audience about their community’s needs and inspire them to take action. The proceeds from the show are given to a local charity. After each show, a community fair is hosted where charitable organizations set up informational booths.

The group performed in the 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

Miscellaneous Facts

According to the Up with People website:

  • 20 million people worldwide have been directly impacted by Up with People
  • 3 million hours of community service
  • 450,000 host families around the world
  • 20,000 alumni in 79 countries
  • 3,600 communities in 38 countries have been visited.

Popular Former Members

Popular culture references

  • Up with People was parodied as "Hooray for Everything" in The Simpsons episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" and in the episode "Selma's Choice", at Duff Gardens.
  • Another parody was done calling the organization "Getting Gay with Kids" in the South Park episode "Rainforest Schmainforest".
  • Up with People was featured in the movie Black Sunday for the Super Bowl half-time performance which actually was real footage of the game and show intermixed with the Hollywood production. They are also credited with singing the National Anthem at the start of the game with Tom Sullivan.
  • The Up with People theme song was formerly used by American syndicated radio and TV talk host Glenn Beck as bumper music for approximately six months (he used about 20 seconds of the reprise).
  • David Letterman every so often would refer to the "Up with People" kids in his top ten lists through the 1980s and 1990s.
  • In Manchester Part I, the first part of the two-episode West Wing Season 3 premiere, campaign strategist Bruno Gianelli complains of the stark pessimism in early drafts of President Bartlet's candidacy announcement, telling Chief of Staff Leo McGarry that he is "reading things that would make the cast of Up with People sit down on the floor and cry."
  • In an episode of the Samurai Pizza Cats cartoon titled "Youth is for Exploding," the show's villain recruits a terrorist group named "Blown Up with People" which consists of Doughboy-like robots who explode whenever they sense strong emotions from the populace.
  • In the Night Court episode "Muggee", Mac tells Harry that it would take two hours to get a hostage negotiator to the court because the hostage negotiators were being held hostage by a militant splinter group of Up with People.
  • "Up With People" is the name of a song by Brooklyn-based rock group Oneida.
  • In The Zeppo, episode 13 of season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander is seduced by Faith. Xander says to her, "I'm suddenly *very* up. It's just, um...I've never been up with people before."


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