Week one of class began in September 2022. And by the second week, after reviewing the options of community organizations, I knew in my mind, heart, and body, that I would be entangling myself with the Friends of Music Society. It was like when I was a child, and there was a table of toys I was eager to get my hands on. I saw this brightly coloured puzzle set amidst plushies and blocks, and I would jump out of my seat to grab it. Quite literally, I remember bouncing out of my seat when my teacher first described this organization. It was the complex and genuine combination of love, care, music, and community that I needed to be a part of again at this time in my life. So, through passionate emails and almost near begging, as my teacher noted, it was a match made in the stars.
October 12th was the first time I walked into the space; walking down the stairs of the lecture hall turned concert stage, seeing the members playing all kinds of instruments, and finally when I saw the glimmering smiles of Vanessa and Janet alike, I knew I was in a new kind of home. My role for the term was to be their photographer, something I had never done before; and yet, I felt an unmeasurable excitement, joy, and ease as I knew it would somehow be the perfect job for me. I thought this would be the only skill I would learn this term, but little did I know I would emerge from the weeds of my own life, holding me down from rhythm and internal revolution; and most of all, the relationships I thought would end with the term, would ostensibly see no bounds. I was stuck in a place of self-doubt—afraid to engage beyond the bounds of my comfort zone—but playing with photography and absorbing the bliss of the members tended to my garden. I was beginning to sprout again.
As the months went on before December, my playing with photography for FOM awakened again my love for creativity. But another part of me surfaced, someone I had neglected as I journeyed through my degree. My juxtaposed musical and insecure self. This part of me encompasses adversity, ecstasy, melancholy, intensity, and pure joy. It was someone I had not come to connect with in some years, but through creating relationships with some of the regular members of FOM, I realized how heartbroken this part of me was, and they only needed a safe space and people to resurface and say hello. I can welcome this person again; this little queer kid, who would spend every waking hour singing, dancing, practicing piano, acting, and being a downright goofball. Someone who would play with abilities, try new skills, and have so much fun learning musically. I cannot thank FOM, as a whole, enough for this, although it was not in the volunteer description.
Being 23, I have now come to understand more of how my brain, body, and spirit connect. An article I read during the course sparked a light for me and my journey in music spaces, that is “tone down the focus on mental illness, turn up the volume regarding the importance of doing music” (Tuastad et al, 2022). Having access to music creativity in a space that acknowledges mental health recovery, but puts more focus on music as the art of building community makes the saying go from being a person with a mental illness who plays in a band, to a person who plays in a band (Tuastad et al, 2022). I now feel ready to get back into musical theatre, try singing in front of an audience, and re-learn piano because of my experiences with FOM. I am so grateful for this. I can be actively recovering my mushy brain parts, but at the same time, I can recover those long dormant networks in my spirit by making connections with the community that supports a musical, healing, and learning journey.
Friends of Music Society is an extremely balanced space. You provide services and lessons run by caring and passionate people, take care of your members, and practice safe space building and inclusivity in every environment you show up to. It was one of my first times truly working in the third sector, and to take such a minor part within your organization, I realized truthfully that this is where I want to be in the near future. It was astonishing how much strength you have as a society; you are able to hold true to your values regardless of the funding structures, hierarchies above your horizontal sphere in the society, and workloads you manage as a smaller group of responsible humans. Watching you show up for each other, working hard, and all the while maintaining such a positive and warm space was truly a delight.
The most inspiring thing about working in the space with FOM has been the organic framing of person-centred healing through music and connection. I realize now that my chaotically good energy is a gift; I am capable and resilient; and I know now that I can fully show up for meaningful work moving forward in the non-profit world. Thank you, Friends of Music Family, you are absolutely incredible, and I cannot wait to keep working with you.