At Marin Academy High School, seniors are encouraged to participate in a project during the month before graduation that is meant to provide a learning experience outside of the classroom and give students a new perspective before heading off to college.
As I looked ahead towards graduation and felt my final days of high school slipping away from me, I was overwhelmed. My activities and schoolwork started to feel meaningless, like they were just stepping stones on a path I was walking far too quickly. Everything was moving too fast. I hoped that my upcoming senior project, a month-long internship at Bread & Roses Presents would pull me out of my funk. Little did I realize just how much it would.
Coming into this project, I was familiar with its powerful mission: to bring the healing power of music to isolated people. I knew that most adults in the Bay Area were familiar with Bread & Roses Presents, but I didn’t understand how such an incredible organization managed to fly under the radar of most teenagers. By interning in the Bread & Roses office and hosting performances at various facilities, I aimed to find out why Bread & Roses should matter to local teenagers.
I hosted four shows over the course of two weeks, at facilities in Point Reyes, Novato and Fairfax. The first three shows that I hosted were at youth centers for young children. These shows symbolized for me the joy that music and the performing arts brings. It was incredible to see how the music coaxed the children to stop being shy and sing, clap, and dance along with the performers. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much after each show. Looking around at the happiness on every child’s face, I knew they were experiencing the same thing.
My final experience as a show host was at an elderly care facility in Novato. This show had a completely different energy from the children’s shows that I hosted. Many of the audience members were nonverbal or had severe dementia. Because most of them didn’t have extensive physical or mental capabilities, the smallest gestures or words meant so much. This show epitomized for me the healing power of music. Hearing familiar jazz tunes from their younger days, a couple audience members nodded their heads, snapped their fingers, tapped the table, or even clapped. As I prepared to leave the facility, a couple of the more verbal audience members expressed how grateful they were to have been given the gift of this performance.
Hearing the Bread and Roses staff talk about the “healing power of music,” I was intrigued and touched by their stories. However, I soon found that it is one thing to hear about the power of music as an abstract concept, but it is an entirely different thing to witness it firsthand.
During my internship, I was asked by Bread & Roses staff to reflect on the question, “Why should youth care about Bread & Roses?”
I believe young people should get involved because hosting these performances changed my life. It showed me the importance of empathy, gratitude, and passion for my craft as a performer. I learned what it means to be isolated and how much music can brighten the darkest of days. I became so much more appreciative of the things that I have, particularly of the prominent role that music has played throughout my life and my high school career. And I developed a deep appreciation for the Bread & Roses staff and their volunteer performers. They all love what they do and love sharing it with others. Their passion for their work touches everyone around them.
Teenagers are constantly bombarded with information about the next step, the next fork in the road, the next chapter of their future. We start to lose sight of what is important because we are always looking ahead. Bread & Roses helped to make me feel centered and grounded again. With a fresh outlook and mindset, I am approaching the next chapter of my life with the passion and drive to become a better human being.
The future no longer looks as scary.
By Katrina Strack, June 2015
Since her internship, Katrina, a talented singer/guitarist with a pop/contemporary repertoire, has become a volunteer performer for Bread & Roses Presents. She has performed a show at a senior convalescent facility, demonstrating her continued commitment to our organization.