With 20 years in the music industry, Vancouver native Chris Brandt knows something about music. He ran his own indie record label, spent 10 years at Universal Music and was former board president of Music B.C. A believer in the power of music, the manager and promoter recently quit his job as a music instructor to focus full-time on his new charity. Brandt is the co-founder and executive director of Music Heals.
What is Music Heals?
Music Heals is a charitable foundation raising awareness of the healing powers of music and to provide funding for music therapy programs and initiatives in B.C. and across Canada. We support music therapy programs serving patients in children’s hospitals; senior centres; palliative care, youth at risk, HIV/AIDS facilities and bereavement groups. There are a number of wonderful existing initiatives that support music therapy, but they are all working independently of each other. We want Music Heals to be an umbrella organization that supports the efforts of all.
How did this come about?
My business partner, David Barnett, and I wanted to create something that united our inpidual charity efforts, and expand the wonderful work of our friends who run the annual Music Therapy Ride, an annual motorcycle charity ride designed to raise funds for community-based music therapy services in B.C.
How has music impacted your life?
I never understand this question. For me it’s like, "So what do you think of air?"
What are some of the programs Music Heals support?
In addition to paying for extended music therapy hours at various facilities, Music Heals run the iPod Pharmacy, which collects good-as-new iPods and MP3 players to give to music therapists to use with their patients. Skullcandy recently donated 100 sets of headphones to the iPod Pharmacy. Imagine giving someone sitting on dialysis for several hours the opportunity to fall into their favourite music during treatment. We also manage a Caring Concerts series sending professional musicians into hospitals. Neither of these things is actual music therapy, but they provide extra tools for the therapists and help raise awareness.
Can you provide some examples of the healing power of music?
Just recently, a local woman had a stroke on the left side of her brain, where the power of speech is located. Since her stroke, she had been unable to speak and just sobbed all day. The music therapist working with her knew that music is housed in other parts of the brain. Taking into account the patient’s age, 71, the music therapist surmised that she had grown up listening to the Beatles so she decided to play "Let It Be." By the third line, the patient was singing. She hadn’t spoken a word since her stroke, and here she was singing.
Who’s been involved with your charity?
Everyone that has heard about Music Heals has offered support. Producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers) committed his producer fees for 54-40’s next record to Music Heals and 54-40 band members are also donating a portion of their fees from that same record. Vancouver-based singer and songwriter Dominique Fricot has almost single-handedly built up the iPod Pharmacy. You’ll also hear Prevail, a.k.a. Kiley Hendricks, lead singer of Swollen Members, voice radio PSAs in the coming year for Music Therapy Month in March.
How can people get involved?
Follow Music Heals on Facebook (Music Heals Canada) and Twitter (@MusicHeals_ca) and watch for the announcement of big plans we will be rolling out next year. Spread the word, collect iPods, and please consider Music Heals as your charity of choice.
What is the ultimate goal of your organization?
I’m just the noisemaker. The music therapists are the experts. Our goal is to make noise and raise funds to help the music therapists to do what they do best. We want to be able to respond to the needs of music therapists and increase access of music therapy programs all across the country. Eventually, we would like to open a music therapy centre in Vancouver.
Focusing our time and efforts. We have so many great ideas and people offering support. We have a lot of balls in the air, but we’ve thrown them all up. It’s a good problem to have.
The immediate support from everyone we have been in contact with; this includes other charities that have been so generous with their time and insight as we build this organization from scratch (Scotiabank and most recently Kasondra Cohen’s Face of Today Foundation have provided financial support to Music Heals.)
Most proud of?
The music therapists of BC are 100% supportive of what we are doing. They’ve given us their banner to carry.
Best life lesson you’ve learned?
How you do anything is how you do everything.
One lesson you’d love to give others?
Don’t cling so hard to your "truth". It changes. You used to think the Backstreet Boys were the best band in the world. Ya, you did.
One thing you could change about the world?
Instead of being born into a religion or political party, I’d love to see all options taught in schools. Upon graduation, you declare your affiliation.
One thing you hate most about the world?
What is happening in Tibet
One thing you wish Vancouverites would stop whining about?
What was your ‘a-ha’ moment?
Peru. Shaman. Pre-Incan ruins. I’ll leave it at that.
Three words to live by
If I can cheat on the three-word limit: hug with your whole body
If not: it goes on
Most thankful for
My sister. So many people have crappy siblings. I’m lucky.
A talent you possess that many are not aware of?
I can talk a Nepali soldier into not shooting me
One thing you can’t live without?
Travel. Culture shock is like food to me.
Last $20 bucks to your name, how would you spend it?
I’d give it to my mom to bet at the casino. She’s got a system.
Best place for coffee?
Still looking for a place with free WiFi, big tables, free parking, and gluten-free food. Good coffee is a bonus.
Market in the Shangri-La Hotel. Don’t order drinks off the menu. Ask for Roland and let him make you something from scratch. Also, the truffle oil popcorn is the best you will ever have.
La Bodega. I’m a vegequarian (yeah I know it’s not the right word, but it has a better ring to it), but my one loophole is the chorizo here.
Favorite greasy spoon?
I’m more of a dim sum guy.
Yoga teacher training
Last book read?
Life, Keith Richard’s biography
All-time favorite movie?
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
Favourite sports team?
Boston Celtics – the Larry Bird years
Last place traveled?
Thailand. Spent 6 weeks on a beach doing yoga and eating mangos.
Best thing about this city?
Worst thing about this city?
The rusted ship hull on Sunset Beach labeled as art
Your favourite neighbourhood?
100 steps in every direction from English Bay
What would the perfect day in Vancouver look like for you?
A run on the seawall, dinner on a patio and checking out a great band at The Commodore.
Community event, festival or gala that you look forward to every year
Living in the West End, Pride weekend is a fantastic unavoidable party.
The one place you take out-of-town visitors to show off our city?
The Elbow Room on Davie Street
Who inspires you?
The Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunus, Seth Godin, my students, Japadog (veggie terimayo), and music therapists
Who bugs you?
Anyone on Fox News, people who chew with their mouth open, and those who ride mopeds in the bike lanes
Local person you most admire?
The dude that threw the shoe at George Bush; okay he’s not from here, but we can pretend.
Most overrated person?
Most memorable celebrity encounter?
Playing roulette in Las Vegas with Eva Longoria; I won with the number she picked for me.
If you could be any celebrity?