Ethan Mask is a singer-songwriter and guitarist. We met him in January at a Youth4Music roundtable that took place at the Orillia Youth Centre. Ethan plays a strong role in his community and has started a Youth Open Mic in his community.
Healing Notes: Music and a Deeper Understanding
There’s something more to music that goes far beyond just singing and dancing. Something aside from the fun and enjoyment we experience when listening and moving to those catchy beats. For many of us, music is the most effective if not only way of comfortably expressing ourselves. What we play, who we listen and dance to, and the melodies/lyrics that inspire each of us help define who we are. Through this expression we experience healing through music—healing through headphones, speakers, instruments, pens, and our voices. Just over 5 years ago I was fortunate to meet with the local youth centre, a great place that provides youth companionship, fun activities, and chances to volunteer within the community. Being a frustrated teenage musician—among many—with no place to play/perform music in my town, I was interested in starting a totally free, all ages Open Mic targeting youth performers, no experience required. 5 years later, and we’ve now hosted over 50 successful musical events bringing-in large audiences with performances by countless youth. I’m still touched and amazed at the positive response we get from the youth who attend these events. In my early teens it became very clear that music could help myself and others through rough times many of us face…I just never really knew to what extent these Open Mics could help serve as an emotional outlet. It’s emotional and incredibly moving listening to a 10 year old kid timidly read their poem about suicide from a crumpled piece of paper. To hear another kid no older than 14, singing a song they wrote about an abusive life at home, while the next 9 year old performer sings along with a friend’s cellphone playing one of the saddest songs you’ve ever heard. It’s incredibly moving to be in a room that becomes dead silent, and then erupts into the loudest, most heartfelt applause—applauding something much more important than musical ability, but honest and real emotion. No, not all music is sad, and not all expression has to come from less than adequate childhood stories or the dark places our minds sometimes wonder. Nevertheless, I sincerely hope this creative outlet has helped people recognize and better understand their feelings and where they come from, it has certainly helped me. Music can help us create something beautiful out of past and present struggle. This expression is a form of communication. We can all relate to one or more sad song out there, and realizing you’re not alone is comforting. Creating that song, poem, or dance which allows others to see and hear the hardships you’ve overcome, proves that these hardships can be overcome. There’s something more to life that goes far beyond singing and dancing. No doubt, we could use a little more of it. However, it is the reasons why we do so that are so important and integral to helping us discover who we are, and who we can be. Maybe, just maybe, taking time to discover ourselves through creative expression is just as important, if not more so, than struggling to achieve top marks in school. Perhaps understanding ourselves should be just as socially important as getting into a post-graduate program or landing a high salary job. Maybe a creative outlet such as music can help us become more emotionally intelligent, and in turn, allow us to understand each other on a deeper level because we actually took the time to express and better understand ourselves. I strongly believe music can help change the world for the better. It’s as simple as getting you in a better headspace. Whether it’s through your headphones, speakers, or coming out of your lungs, music can and does change you. Rock on, Ethan Mask