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Popular drop-in music workshops receive boost from Concordia music alumnus

Live Your Music series, hosted by Part-time professor Irene Feher and the Student Success Centre, promotes health and community
September 10, 2019
By Mackenzie Lad


An anonymous alumnus from the Department of Music has donated $25,000 to support the Live Your Music: Music Health Breaks workshop series offered by Concordia’s Student Success Centre (SSC) and the Department of Music

The workshop series is led by Irene Feher, a part-time faculty in Concordia’s Department of Music. 

Feher, who joined the American non-profit organization Music for People in 2013, is a firm believer in the organization’s mandate: everyone is full of music, and music making should be accessible to everyone.

At a Live Your Music at Concordia workshop, community members come together to make spontaneous music. People can bring their own  instruments, or use instruments provided by Feher. 

There is no emphasis on a particular style of music or a technical skill set, and no musical experience is required. Feher leads participants through a series of accessible musical exercises in a safe and receptive environment.

"What we do is something musicologist Christopher Small calls “musicking,” says Feher. 

“Musicking is about the process of making music with others. As much as the combination of sounds are organized to create music, of equal importance are the human relationships, how people listen and connect with each other.”

‘The Student Success Centre jumped on the idea’

“Lots of Concordia students play instruments, but don’t have the money to continue taking expensive lessons, or don’t have the time, or may feel intimidated to approach people in the music community and join a band – but they would love to play music” said Feher. 

As a teacher and music facilitator, she wanted to bridge that gap.

“I was looking for a place where people could come and bring their own instruments and just fit in,” she says. 

After she taught a musical improvisation course in the Summer of 2018, Feher approached Laura Mitchell, director of the Student Success Centre. She pitched the idea of weekly musical improvisation drop-in sessions, open to the entire Concordia community.

“Laura just loved it,” recalled Feher. “Because there’s such a mandate at Concordia for wellness and helping students feel connected with the community and perform well in academics, of course the Student Success Centre and the University jumped on the idea.”

With an initial grant from the SSC and support from the Chair of the Music Department, Feher started the first Live Your Music workshop series at Concordia one year ago.

‘Mind and body, this is a really beneficial thing to do’

What started small has grown into a popular program at the SSC. Mitchell, who holds a doctorate in music psychology, saw the benefits of collective music-making immediately amongst students who participated in the workshop. 

“Within one session you could see a student go from hunched over, stressed and a bit nervous-looking, to being so happy and just enjoying the music.” she said. 

“All over your mind and body, this is a really beneficial thing to do. To just give people a chance to be present can be very meaningful to them.” 

When asked to write reviews on paper immediately following a workshop, past participants testified to their own personal positive experiences on a comments wall. 

“This program has helped me find a group to play music with. It’s super relaxed so I can just stop by once a week and relax. A great super inclusive program that I am grateful for,” wrote one Engineering student. 

“First time attending, what a special event! No background in music and the fact that this is open to me is fantastic! Please continue,” wrote another Fine Arts student.

‘There’s an amazing community that is starting to grow’

The workshops forge connections beyond the music, says Feher. 

“What’s happening at these workshops is that there’s an amazing community that is starting to grow from individuals that otherwise might not have connected.” 

“There’s an inclusiveness in terms of interracial, intergenerational, interdisciplinary; there’s just people from all different programs and backgrounds that are coming together and we manage to make wonderful sound.”

This anonymous donation will enable the SSC to fund the program for the next three years. The donor’s wish is for students to experience how music can enrich lives.  

“I personally would be quite happy knowing my donation is well directed to a lifetime passion of mine,” says the donor. “I am rewarded in knowing my help will enrich the students who attend the way my life is enriched through music.”

“It is my hope that these sessions will remove the stigma that there are only a gifted few that can make music, and that if people come to this workshop they will realize that we are all full of music and we can all enjoy the benefits of Musicking” says Feher.

How to take part

Student Success Centre Live Your Music workshops are held every Wednesday evening from 6:30pm-7:30pm at the Department of Music, JMSB 8th floor, room 135. 

Concordia’s 4th Space will host a free interactive workshop, Musical play will make your day, on September 10, as part of its Health Matters programming.

XP_MTL, in collaboration with the SSC and the Department of Music, will host a series of weekly one hour Live Your Music vocal workshops on their outdoor stage, located on St. Catherine St. (between Guy and McKay St.), from September 26 – October 31.


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