really tried to give this story a catchy angle, but the fact is that this event was simply a group of people genuinely believing in a cause and raising money for it. Please enjoy this straightforward article.
“Musical equipment? I must be in the right place!” I joked, dusting the snow off my raincoat. The first flurries of the coming winter outside became the running joke of the event. On Sunday, November 20th 2016, I had the honour of being given a ticket to the first annual “Raise Your Voice Music Fest” in support of Partners for Mental Health, a nation-wide charity based here in Ottawa.
As much as I liked to brag about our free healthcare system to my American friends, we are not perfect up north – especially not in the mental health field. There are simply not enough doctors to go around – 75% of youth wait between twelve to eighteen months to see a specialist (stat from the speech of Jeff Moat, President of Partners for Mental Health). Can you imagine if that was the wait time for a teenager diagnosed with cancer? The charity organizing the event focuses in two main spots: youth, and the workplace.The people I met are firm believers in reducing the stigma in the everyday, to get people talking… or singing.
Meet Crystalena: the Carleton University music student with a voice the colour of peach-lemonade. Not only did she share her nachos and inspire me with some solid songwriting advice (creating a brain-map from four description words starting at your song’s subject), but she is also strongly emotional about this cause.
Growing up, facing all the hardships that occurred in my life, I started singing very young, and going to the [city funded “safe-space” clubhouse] as a coping strategy, release and way to express myself through music.
Even those who didn’t outwardly admit to having dealt with personal demons showed their gratitude and joy to be here. I mean, take Andrew Cassara and his band. He lead a round of applause for Fat Tuesday’s Kanata (who happily volunteered their venue for the event) and the team of passionate volunteers, before casually mentioning in between songs that this was the release date for his new single, New Me No You. Intrigued by his tactfulness, I tracked him down after his band’s set, where he shared excitement for his new organic sound, stating that “I want to make music that my parents and grandparents will like” (appealing to adults too, as opposed to just stereotypical screaming tween girls). By the way, I’m totally interviewing the band after their cross-Canada (via every Province and Territory) tour.
Last but not least, I had the pleasure to bump into the fascinating Michael Dixon, head of the Ottawa chapter. We went back and forth, describing the struggles we’d been through. In his words “here I was, chairman of Partners for Mental Health in Ottawa, and falling apart.” Things got better and “I’m going to be okay.”
For every horrible story you here on the news about mental health, there are many more under the radar people who are getting help and helping others. Differences can be made and music heals, one concert at a time.