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Communicating Through the Universal Language of Music - Therapeutic Communities Pt. 4

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 9:00 am by Maureen Fries

This is the last of a four-part series examining the various therapeutic communities Camillus House provides for its clients, in addition to the various health, medical, legal, residential, job and career assistance programs they provide to the poor and homeless of Miami Dade County.

Provided in partnership with organizations and individuals who give of their time and talent to help others reconnect or discover the artistic talent that lies within, the therapeutic communities expose them to a world outside of the hub they may have grown up or lived in, according to Clarissa Hazel, Camillus House Clinician for the Institute for Success and Personal Achievement, or ISPA.

As Hazel explains it, this is “a more holistic approach to helping individuals get back into society. There’s more to life than just the fact you are in recovery, you can enjoy other things.” And she notes that each community provides different kinds of coping skills, different ways to be creative, enjoy themselves, instill hope and have an outlet to express themselves. 

Motivational Edge

The hip hop beat fills the small room and the poetic rhyme scheme flows effortlessly from the performers as they lay down lyrics accompanying the instrumental track on their newest project. At first listen, one may think they have just stepped into a professional recording facility.

However, this make-shift studio is not sound proof, it does not have all the bells and whistles of a major recording studio. It’s just a computer with a sound recording program, a mic and the dreams of the talented men sitting in a room tucked away in the NCL campus of Camillus House.

This is Motivational Edge, one of the therapeutic communities introduced at Camillus House last year in partnership with the volunteer organization of the same name, to create a platform for clients in the jail diversion and substance abuse programs to express their thoughts and feelings through music and poetry … and the chance to record it.

“We provide clients with tools for recording their music and songs,” explained Lyndon Gray, a radio marketing account executive who volunteers his time with Motivational Edge at Camillus every Tuesday evening from 6:30-8:30pm.

The brainchild of Ian Welsch, Motivational Edge originally began as a program for at-risk youth in 2008. It was designed to create a culture of engagement for the youth through the arts as an essential building block to a successful life. Welsch realized that adults could benefit as well, so he brought the idea to Camillus, where it has been well received by clients like Bryan Person and George McCandies who are tapping into their musical and writing talents in the journey to recovery.

Person was an aspiring rapper in his youth, but became disillusioned with the industry. Now a Camillus resident and peer specialist, he was drawn to Motivational Edge because, “it was nostalgic and has made me more expressive. It woke something up in me, especially when George came through. George actually makes music. I rap. We just started pairing up and it’s been rejuvenating.”

McCandies, 44, is a music producer by trade. His interest in music goes all the way back to his junior high school days and his time in chorus, drama and theater. “I was the guy who liked to mess around with instruments … guitar, keyboard and piano,” he explained. But, his true talent lies in sequencing music, creating song ideas and putting them together. “I just like being around the music industry,” McCandies explained, and he sees himself as a role model for others interested in developing their musical skills and talent.

Together McCandies, Person, Gray and other members of the Motivational Edge community are working on some things. “They’re actually in here with goals,” Gray noted. “And I’m encouraging them to believe in themselves and their dreams. Some of the guys at CH are vocalists, strong singers. And Brian is a great poet, a great vocalist as well.” 

With the assistance from Gray, they’ve recorded three or four songs. “We’re just trying to put some songs together,” McCandies said. “All of our songs are motivational, inspired by a Christian outline, gospel, inspirational. We write about our lives, experiences we’ve gone through, places we’ve been, stuff we’ve been through. It’s coming along well.”

As Gray explained, the clients of CH come to each session “with their feelings, their passions, their writing when they’re in a jail cell, or when they’re in their rooms. And while they’ve been writing these things all this time, we now have a way to record it. To them, it’s priceless.” 

Gray, an avid music lover, is passionate about music and passionate about spending time each Tuesday night with the guys in Motivational Edge. “That’s why I’m here. I’m a musician, I love music,” he explained. “Music is powerful, music is a language of love and it’s also a universal language. So when you get these people in here that are going through traumatic situations and looking for an opportunity to better themselves, what better way than being able to communicate through music.”

Person looks forward to crafting something with his friends on a weekly basis. “We get down and grind it out all week and come together with the next project that we’re working on. We meet and just record it. We get a whole week to rehearse…and two hours to put it together. I don’t know if it’s where I want to go, but it’s entertainment again. It’s something I look forward to doing. I just love doing it.

“It’s a blessing that CH has this program,” McCandies said. “I don’t know of any other program around that gives you access to record and use your talents so that the world can see the good that’s in you. We get a chance to reveal our talents and express ourselves in a positive way.”

Where will all the creativity, work and talent lead? No one knows, but Gray has learned that this group of men is dedicated to “creating something they can hold on to, something they can show to their kids, their family, and actually develop their craft.”

“You’d be surprised at the good you can do when you make the right decisions,” McCandies believes. “And people are watching that, people are really aware and you never know who’s watching you or what influence you’re having on them.”

Did anyone say Grammys?

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