THE POWER OF MUSIC TO FOSTER UNITY IN DIVERSITY

submitted by Lynn Smith

“Monday Morning Music” is my biggest joy each week! For a little over an hour each Monday morning there is a hall in our small town of Duncan, BC, Canada that just rocks with friendship, companionship and music—lots of music!

What does “Monday Morning Music” look like? Visualize a back-up band of professional musicians – could be a country band, or a rock band – it doesn’t matter as these guys can play most any style of music you like! We have a fantastic keyboard player, a rocking lead guitarist, and a bass guitarist who has a million songs tucked in his back pocket. Picture me standing on stage and looking out at a sea of happy faces, all potential star performers. I love this participatory audience of about a hundred people who come every week to sing along, dance, and perform. Members of the audience are invited to come to the microphone, choose a song they would like to sing, and away we go! Can you see my heart soaring with gratitude to see how music unites and brings together such a diverse group of people?

Each person in the audience is a potential star performer, bursting to share their different gifts. Many come to Monday Morning Music in inter-dependent pairs or small groups made up of individuals who require support to participate in community and their support workers, family members, and friends. For at least an hour, every Monday morning we create a musical community in which there is no such label as “special needs”. We are simply wonderful, amazing, fabulous people supporting each other to dance and sing together. Friendships are formed, strengthened and all is well with the world!

During the rest of the week, the importance and value of most of these musicians tends to be overlooked or minimized by our main-stream society. The label that is often applied to categorize and exclude individuals who need support to live their daily lives is “special needs”. This label may be well-intentioned, but the impact of labelling a whole group of people as ‘special’ stops most opportunities for them to interact with most people who label themselves as ‘normal’. The mind bubble is: “If that person has such ‘special needs,’ then ‘special people’ must be required to meet those needs, not a ‘normal’ ordinary person like me.” This false logic creates big disconnections. If you stop to think of it, don’t we all have special needs, although perhaps not as significant as those individuals who carry the “label”? For example, I have to wear glasses—that is a special need of mine so that I can get around safely.

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Included in the needs shared by all humans are the needs for friendship and companionship and to be in spaces that are safe and joyful. That is the need that Monday Morning Music meets each week for everyone who comes.

Monday Morning Music is supported by a variety of individuals. Tamara Taylor of Inclusive Services makes sure the hall rental gets paid and music equipment replaced or updated when necessary. Brentwood College School has become another major contributor to supporting this music program. Students from Brentwood come and join in the fun. Every year, under the direction of Phil Newns, head of the Music Department at the School, they put on a “Concert on a Summer’s Eve” at the school and funds raised are used to help pay for our hall rental and music equipment.

Many other individual Inclusive Leaders have taken initiative to hold fund raisers in support of the program. This has happened because they have entered the hall and experienced the wonderful sense of a community that does not dwell on differences as handicaps but rather on an acceptance of differences as magnificent. We are all part of one human family, for one morning each week, united together in our love of music.