Plugged in Band’s Peace Tracks facilitator Eddie Mora’s story is defined by two things: his passion for music and profound resilience. Eddie’s role is to guide and support students from Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, and the United States as they compose, perform, record, and produce an original song about pressing issues their generation or culture is facing–all through virtual exchange. When he first joined Plugged in Band, he had no way of knowing that he would soon experience a life-altering stroke or that Peace Tracks would become a beacon of light amidst a period of intense darkness.
Eddie grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA, U.S. where he quickly fell in love with all things music. He played guitar and piano, and learned the basics of producing from his father, who owned a small, private recording studio for local bands. In 2022, Eddie discovered a job opening at Plugged in Band–a non-profit that serves musicians of all skill levels and abilities through inclusive programs and community service–while looking to make a career change. He knew immediately that it was the perfect fit.
He could fulfill his lifelong desire to create lasting change in the world while doing what he loved most, playing music. But just before Eddie began this new chapter of his professional journey, Peace Tracks faced funding challenges and the program was put on hold. Eddie and the entire Plugged in Band team were devastated.
Then, the unimaginable happened. Eddie suffered a massive stroke, leaving him blind, unable to walk or talk, and with severe cognitive impairments. His life changed in an instant. As he set out on the long road to recovery, one thing remained constant: his love of music. Eddie’s neurologist encouraged him to use music as a healing tool. In fact, a growing number of studies in the last decade have shown that music therapy significantly improves language recovery and motor function after a stroke. Remarkably, he improved and within days, his vision and cognition returned to normal. His doctors called it an astonishing recovery and a miracle. Eddie spent the next month in the hospital, where he worked hard to build back his health through music therapy and other forms of rehabilitation.
Eddie continued to face health challenges, but his resilience never wavered. Around the time he finished long-term physical therapy, Plugged in Band received new funding and the Peace Tracks program could finally begin. Co-founder Sandra Rizkallah knew Eddie had suffered a serious stroke, but believed in his potential to thrive as a Peace Tracks facilitator. She asked him if he would be willing to return. Eddie was hesitant. He was still grappling with the effects of his stroke, but he could not overlook the role music played in the immediate aftermath. This was an opportunity to continue using music for his own healing, and to help the next generation access its powerful potential too. He couldn’t turn it down. Eddie took the leap and returned to Peace Tracks. If even one student found hope in his experience, it would be worth it.
Today, Eddie is making his aspiration a reality by bringing positivity and peace to young people internationally. He says that this experience enabled him to gain a whole new perspective on the world around him. He became more confident and found a love for teaching others music. In reflection, Eddie says, “It’s been like therapy for me, just working and communicating with my students and writing music.”
His work is helping him continue to heal, but Eddie’s focus is also set on impacting those around him. He has an outstanding ability to reach his students, even as many of them are living through active conflict and tremendous hardship. In a recent assignment, Eddie asked the Peace Tracks participants to write an original song. There were no specific instructions other than to create something new. The deadline came and went with few submissions. Eddie went back to his students and encouraged them to feel free to make their song their own. It didn’t have to fit any certain mold, it could sound or look however they wanted it to be–whether it was in English or another language–as long as they were being true to themselves. The songwriting submissions immediately poured in. By centering his students, Eddie helped them express their authentic thoughts and feelings from the heart, without pressure or judgment. When asked what advice he would give to potential virtual exchange facilitators, his top takeaway was “don’t overthink it,” he continued, “when you are open to [your students] they will be open to you.”
Similar to his students, Eddie went through something most people can’t imagine facing. By leading each day as their facilitator, he is proving to his students that your greatest difficulties do not define you. Instead, you are defined by how you show up for others and the goodness you put out into the world.
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Peace Tracks is implemented by the Plugged In Band Program and is supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI). JCSVEI is a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program administered by the Aspen Institute.