Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll!

This post was contributed by Five Town Communities That Care Development Director, Alex Owre.

For a cliché to represent the absolute in a wanton, risky lifestyle, it’s hard to beat “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” The troika conjures sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies, squandered brain cells and overdoses, social deviants in leather pants howling at our kids to reject authority.

But one of these things is not (necessarily) like the others when it comes to promoting healthy behaviors in our children when their brains are screaming for social and emotional rewards that come at ever-greater risk. The perils of risky sex and drug use speak for themselves.

But, as the Lorax speaks for the trees, I must speak up for rock and roll.

Music is a universal language, so the saying goes. Most anyone can make music of one sort or another… especially true if the music is simple—three-chord rock and roll, anyone? And everyone has the capacity to be moved by music. It can inspire us and free us from worry. For many kids who feel they have no other social outlets, listening to or playing music connects them with their peers, gives them a sense of belonging.

Here in America we know that “it takes a village to raise a child.” As cliché as this saying has become (almost as cliché as “sex, drugs, and rock and roll),” let’s not ignore the underlying truth that when it comes to raising healthy kids, it takes a communal effort. Substitute “community” for “village” in that saying, and you have the vision of Communities That Care.

Now consider a common African saying: “A village without music is a dead village.” Almost nothing is more important to the cohesion of the village than song, a force that provides, for the individuals taking part, a sense of belonging to the whole.

At the confluence of these two “village” sayings I see a prescription for healthy communities and healthy kids: let’s encourage our children’s musical aspirations. Celebrate their musical accomplishments. Hold a garage party, and let the band play. We’ll all be better off for it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Could have been a lost boy…….

This entry was contributed by Five Town Communities That Care Board member (and past chair), Peter Russell.

I had a visible skin rash, I never felt like I belonged with my peers, I was mercilessly bullied by 3 boys (physically) and 4 girls (verbally) from middle school through high school, academically I barely got by, and I was terribly insecure around girls and the cool kids. I found relief with a fringe group of guys that drank beer and smoked cigarettes but were exceedingly smart and articulate.

Thanks to two early mentors, one who was the technical director of our semipro church theater productions and the other my high school English teacher/drama club (including Stage Crew) director, I began to have dreams of working as a technician in professional theater, maybe even Broadway!

It would be that high school teacher that helped me to make the first steps toward my dreams.  By giving me the courage and support to NOT go to college he changed my life forever.

That teacher would also introduce me to my next mentor who started to polish my dreams into achievable goals as I worked very hard for 5 years in the film industry, a sound studio, and many summer stock and national tour productions.

Finally I was in the right place at the right time and partnered with three other men in a fledgling industry called industrial theater.  I spent the next 32 years as Production Manager, Stage Manager and Audio Engineer in what became a successful career.  Oh yes, I got to work on Broadway.

There is just no substitute for young people bonding with caring adults and those adults vesting in the future of those youngsters.