Music has power, it’s a fact. It has the power to sooth, shake, and stir something inside of us, reaching deep into our souls, awakening, healing us. Music is Our Weapon knows it. That’s why armed with MP3 players and songs, they go around North Texas calling us to fight loneliness and abandonment.
Music is Our Weapon (MIOW) is one of a kind non-profit organization, they appeal to our generation insatiable crave for music and guide it to a good cause. In their words, “We believe that music has the power to increase emotional, physical and mental wellbeing for those in need.”
I stumbled onto MIOW when they screened the documentary Alive Inside (you can watch it here); teary eyed I left the theater deeply moved by the effect of music in Alzheimer and dementia patients, wondering how could I get involved and who this MIOW guys were.
Almost two years ago, JP Maloney and Ashley Brightwell, had an idea: start a music blog that would make in impact in the community. The result, an organization that had given about 200 iPods and MP3 players to nursing homes, memory care units, and battered women shelters in Texas. Each unit is filled with either genre music or personalized playlists for the residents. The effect that this music has on their lives, it’s simply immeasurable.
JP is a walking music encyclopedia, eclectic of course, anything from old school hip-hop to dance, with a taste for funk and soul. Ashley is always hungry for music; he witness the rise, the fall and the revival of Dallas music scene, he knows musicians and DJs since their first shows, and he wanders the realms looking for new sounds constantly. When they met, “it was like a ping pong of music,” recalls JP, friendship flourished, and out of that passion for music and their love for the city a mission was born.
They created Music is Our Weapon, a music platform that promotes local artists and discovers unknown sounds around the world, while organizing fundraising concerts and events. “Dallas is a collaborative environment,” assures Ashley, “musicians, groups, support each other. It’s an incubator for better things to come.” They can prove it with successful events like North Texas Giving Day, where they partnered with local venues to bring six live music acts and 26 DJs. “We have levity,” JP affirms. He is right, they attract the fun seeking millennial crowd and connect it to older generations through the thing we all have in common: music.
Each donation, each purchase is translated into music for someone that needs it, for example someone suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Music is a gateway, a time travel door that allows them to feel alive in the world they knew, simply with the touch of a button. “This is how it works,” Ashley explains, “we buy the devices in bulk. We train the caretakers, we provide devices with genre music and personalized songs for the residents.” A 30 dollars t-shirt equals a fully loaded device, (MP3 player, headphones and music). A device can be shared, so just 30 are enough for a facility: there is no telling how many memories one MP3 player can awake.
It takes time to find what music is close to the resident, and create a playlist that will connect and trigger their memory and emotions. The most popular genres are Gospel, Classical, Soul, Country, Blues, Jazz and typically music from the 40s to the 60s. “Music fills a void and acts as a vessel for care on an emotional level, care that no prescribed medicine can possibly provide,” concludes Ashley.
Sarah Passon followed MIOW on a recent delivery to a North Texas care facility for a piece on the Dallas Observer.
MIOW program doesn’t end there, their volunteers visit the facilities twice a month, they have music performances periodically, and they also have integrated the program with some school’s community service programs. Their ambition doesn’t stop there; they are aiming for more. They want to reach at least 15 more care facilities in the North Texas area by the end of 2015. They believe in the power of music, that’s why they want to expand their personalized music programs to other areas of need like PTSD rehabilitation centers, human trafficking victims and special needs individuals. That requires money, time and volunteers.
If you believe in music, if a song has ever transported you somewhere safe, if a melody has brought to tears, and lyrics had picked you up. Come, join them, hear the voice calling, fill up the ranks, reach. Volunteer, buy a shirt, donate, sing a song, dance, connect.