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GUIDEPOST cover, 18 September 1981


Complete and unabridged


by Ann Marple
First published in GUIDEPOST
18 September 1981

Ed’s note
For the latest on Up With People, see
>UWP website: www.upwithpeople.org

>Up With People, Wikipedia



Up! Up! with people
You meet ´em wherever you go.
Up! Up! With people
They´re the best kind of folks we know.
If more people were for people,
all people everywhere,
there´d be a lot less people to worry about
and a lot more people who care…

A simple message, a lively melody and 500 energetic, clean-cut young people from over 18 different countries and 50 states— those are the raw ingredients of the upcoming, uplifting UP WITH PEOPLE´s 1981 appearance here on September 23rd, 24th and 25th at the Pavillon de Deportes del Real Madrid. Adding this to their contagious enthusiasm, hope-inspiring idealism and well-organized, almost evangelical promotion and publicity teams, it´s little wonder why Tucson, Arizona-based group has managed  to be invited to over 46 foreign countries in 6 continents including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Portugal and Spain. And they became the only international group of its kind to be invited to perform in the People´s Republic of China since 1949, appearing in Peking, Canton, Shanghai, Nanking, Kweilin, and Hangchow in 1978.

Hailed as “international ambassadors of hope” and backed by charitable and international education programs around the world, UP WITH PEOPLE have taken some “all-American” products like positive thinking, belief in “something” and the desire to make changes in the world, and spread them far and wide using music and dance as the vehicle.

Result? Who hasn’t ´heard of UP WITH THE PEOPLE sung around campfires, at Boy Scout meetings and Girl Scout camps, in churches, in clubs, at advertising and management meetings, in short, wherever a group of people gather. And the same is true of the Spanish version, “Viva la gente,” made popular during their last visit here. Their songs, in fact, have been translated into many languages, and their policy is to sing native melodies in the original in each country they visit.

Born 14 years ago at the height of student unrest and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations UP WITH PEOPLE,  the brainchild of J. Blanton Belk, now President and Chairman of the Board of the non-profit, educational and charitable corporation, and head of the Alumni Program which keeps tabs on some 6,000 former participants. The founder´s goal was to create an international youth program that would “help build bridges of communication and understanding among peoples, cultures and nations, and to give young people a learning experience that not only broadens the intellect but matures the person.”

Over 9000 applications are considered each year, though currently only 500 can be accommodated, divided into 5 groups each with a staff of 20. “Most staff members are former cast members, like me,” says Ann-Christin Erikson, promotion coordinator for Cast E, now appearing in Spain. Eriksson spent a year traveling as part of the performing group, then went into the scheduling and promotion side of the production. Her pay is “symbolic” she says, at 150 dollars a month, but the experience and excitement are worth it. Now in her third year with the group, she´s almost reluctant to settle down as a teacher in her native country, Sweden, a problem shared by many ex-members. “They go home after a year of a meeting people, visiting foreign countries, being presented to heads of government and royalty, and working on stage and backstage as professionals, and they find that they can´t explain it all to their old friends back home because their old friends think they´re just showing off. It´s quite a shock at first.”

Participants in the program must between 18 and 25, but according to Eriksson, they don´t have to be especially gifted musically, just energetic, enthusiastic and willing to work hard and learn. Students are told of their acceptance 6 to 18 months before they join the group at its headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, where they undergo six intensive weeks of training in voice, dance, stage set-up and management and stage presence. They learn the original music, choreography and production of the show they will perform on an average of twice a day for the next eleven months. Rehearsals start at 8:00 a.m. and last until after 8:00 p.m.six days a week, a schedule which they also follow on the road.

As part of UP WITH PEOPLE´s educational program, cast members hear lectures and join in discussions with national opinion-makers, government officials, editors and entertainers. Students pay about 5300 dollars for the year as tuition, room and board, about 30% of the total expenses. An additional 50% is provided by show revenues, sales and royalties on UP WITH PEOPLE products: T-shirts, Songbooks, records, cassettes, buttons, stickers, patches, pendants, and pins. The difference is made up by gifts and grants from churches, private corporations, clubs and other contributors of tax-deductable gifts.

UP WITH PEOPLE´s Board of Directors boasts the presence of Eugene A. Cernan, former astronaut and now Executive Vice-President of Coral Petroleum in Houston, the president of General Motors Corporation, Mrs, Jesse Owens, Mrs. Pete Rozelle on the International Board, the former President of Mexico, Miguel Alemán, Rodolfo Bay Wright, President of Spantax in Madrid, the one and only Bob Hope of Hollywood, Anthony Quinn in Rome, Capt. Walter Schirra, former astronaut and president of Schirra Enterprises in Englewood, Colorado, Arthur Sulzberger, President and Publisher of the New York Times in New York, and many more.

As part of the program´s focus on international exchange, students are housed with families in each of the countries they visit. Host families are solicited by teams of promoters who are sent ahead of each performing group to make arrangements, contacts and find housing for group members. Promoters feel that the Host Family program is important for the students because they are allowed to participate in a variety of lifestyles and exchange ideas on family life, personal values and individual beliefs, as well as being vital for the “continuation of the program.” Because of the hectic work and travel schedule, the students, they say, really appreciate time to relax in a friendly, warm environment, as well as have the opportunity to practice a few foreign languages. In their year of travel, the cast members stay with about 80 host families throughout the world.

In almost every spot of the cast visits, students meet with local leaders, government officials and others to exchange ideas and learn about the place they are visiting. Whenever possible, cast members make field trips to local points of interest, cultural events, artistic programs and other locations, they add. “These visits can help  students expand their understanding of him-or herself and a greater insight into our global interdependence.”

In the words of one of the original songs written for their new show by Ralph and Paul Colwell, the brothers who have written all the music for UP WITH PEOPLE since its beginnings:


Can we sing a song of peace
In a world that´s full of fear?

Can a melody of hope
Ever hope to dry a tear?…

Can we sing a song a song of love
When we´re hostages oh hate?

Will it be heard above
the shouting at the gate?

Clouds are gathering on the horizon
And on the wind, overtures of war…

Can we sing a song of peace
when they´re knocking down the doors?

Simple questions that remain unanswered for us and a new generation of UP WITH PEOPLE.


(One of the many briefings before “Up with People” took off on a worldwide tour.)