Person of Interest: Noisemaker sounds off about healing power of music

Music Heals co-founder Chris Brandt has something to sing for

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?

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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 childrens 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 its 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 patients 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 hadnt spoken a word since her stroke, and here she was singing.

Whos 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 54-40s 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. Youll 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?

Im 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.

Biggest challenge?

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 weve thrown them all up. Its a good problem to have.

Biggest success?

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 Cohens 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. Theyve given us their banner to carry.

Best life lesson youve learned?

How you do anything is how you do everything.

One lesson youd love to give others?

Dont 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, Id 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. Ill 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. Im lucky.

A talent you possess that many are not aware of?

I can talk a Nepali soldier into not shooting me

One thing you cant live without?

Travel. Culture shock is like food to me.

Last $20 bucks to your name, how would you spend it?

Id give it to my mom to bet at the casino. Shes 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.

Best bar/lounge?

Market in the Shangri-La Hotel. Dont 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.

Favorite restaurant?

La Bodega. Im a vegequarian (yeah I know its not the right word, but it has a better ring to it), but my one loophole is the chorizo here.

Favorite greasy spoon?

Im more of a dim sum guy.

Biggest indulgence?

Yoga teacher training

Last book read?

Life, Keith Richards biography

All-time favorite movie? Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Favourite pastime?Live music

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?

Cheap sushi

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 hes not from here, but we can pretend.

Most overrated person?

Deepak Chopra.

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?

Jon Stewart

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