Music has been known as a wonderful means to convey feelings and emotions for centuries. It accompanies us from an early age. Starting with lullabies to continue with some more complex pieces, which we listen to while still being rebellious teenagers to finish on something that could be used to soothe our worries and to raise our spirits giving us some moments of reflection. Besides this, its another important role is to convey the emotions through words preferably combined with some proper melody, thus music can also have a therapeutic role. It’s been used for years in music therapy – a field making use of music to allow both physical and mental recovery.
The disabled are often pushed to the margins of society, as it’s an easier way for the people around them. Why? This is largely because the earlier mentioned society don’t know how to treat people who slightly differ from them, assuming that they are simply worse and therefore less important for the local community. Of course, everyone who has had a chance to meet people struggling with various kinds of disabilities knows that such a way of thinking is simply wrong. What’s more, it’s enough to show a little bit of good will to help the disabled join able-bodied people to make them enjoy their lives and experience the same kind of daily pleasures as the rest of society. Luckily, there are still some volunteers with big hearts, who are willing to devote their free time to give others hope and therefore enrich their own lives. Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to Julianne Meaney, who decided to give up her dreams of becoming an opera singer in favor of working with disabled people through giving them vocal lessons, as well as preparing them to perform during concerts organized for their local community.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Julianne: Hi everyone! My name is Julianne, and I’m from Newfoundland, Canada. I’m a singer and voice teacher, as well as being the coordinator for a creative music program for people with disabilities. I recently started my blog, Finding Julianne, to talk to readers about the journey I’ve been on to create my happiest and most fulfilling life.
Passion Piece: You are a truly talented woman, who once wanted to become an opera singer. What made you change your plans?
Julianne: I spent most of my life on the path to becoming a professional singer. I spent years in lessons and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music. Performing will always be a huge part of my life, but I realized that helping others was what really gave me the most joy. It was tough at first – my professors and colleagues felt I had what it took to continue with my opera career and couldn’t understand why I would give that up to devote my time to others instead. But that choice has allowed me to become a more fulfilled person and make a bigger difference to the world than I would have as just a singer.
Passion Piece: Is volunteering popular in Canada? Do many young people decide to devote their time to different organizations which offer help to the ones in need?
Julianne: Yes! I think volunteering is actually quite popular here. I’m not sure how this works in other places, but in my province completing 40 hours of volunteering was one of the criteria to graduate from high school. Plus, many people are aware of how amazing it can be to devote your time to something bigger than yourself. It was volunteering that first helped me realize my passion for helping others.
Passion Piece: How do you use your ear for music while working with disabled people?
Julianne: I believe all people can gain benefits from listening to and making music. In our music sessions, we sing, clap, dance, and listen. We play music games and use music as a tool to help the participants express themselves that they might not be able to without music.
Passion Piece: What kind of challenges do you face while giving vocal lessons?
Julianne: Music is such a personal subject for so many people. Our voices are especially personal to us since they are literally inside of us! One of my biggest challenges is making sure that I’m always careful to respect and honor every student’s unique voice. I work with a lot of kids and teenagers, particularly young girls, and I’m always aware of the impact that my lessons can have on them. I always want my lessons to be a safe place to create and learn – about music and about themselves.
Passion Piece: How do people with disabilities react to music? Do they enjoy singing and creating new pieces on their own?
Julianne: All of my participants absolutely love it! Music is an amazing way to express yourself – and a number of my participants aren’t able to express themselves through words like you and I can. Being able to be creative and express emotions through songs can be extremely therapeutic.
Passion Piece: Do they perform in public from time to time? How do their lives change because of the lessons you give them?
Julianne: We actually had a performance around Christmastime where our group performed with a local band. For a lot of them this was their favorite band, and they felt like rock stars up there on stage with them! Sometimes I see individuals with disabilities called “special” or singled out in a negative way. To see them smiling and singing on stage and standing out for all the right reasons was an incredibly powerful experience.
Passion Piece: What else do you do besides volunteering? Is there a new project you’d like to work on?
Julianne: If you can’t tell already, music is extremely important to me! I’d like to perform more, especially if I can make those performances make a difference. Eventually, I’d love to host and perform in a benefit concert for the organization that I work for. It would be such an amazing way to connect my love of performing with the work that I do for others.
Passion Piece: Why did you decide to set up your own blog?
Julianne: After I graduated university, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I was taking a gap year, and trying to focus on self-development and finding my purpose. All the big decisions I had to make and lessons I had to learn inspired me to want to share that journey with others. As someone who loves helping and connecting with other people, a blog seemed like the perfect way to connect with the world and share my thoughts on this lifelong process of finding yourself.
Passion Piece: What kind of topics do you discuss on your website?
Julianne: On Finding Julianne I talk about creating your best self through a few different lenses. I love talking about mental health, self-development, and ways you can live a healthier life! Some recent topics include learning to stand up for yourself, intuitive eating, and body positivity!
Passion Piece: What do you love doing in your free time?
Julianne: Even though music is my work, creating and listening to music in my spare time is still one of my biggest passions. I also love writing and reading!
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Julianne: My goal is to go back to school and get my Masters degree in Music Therapy so I can continue on my journey of helping others through music. I’d like to be working as a music therapist, as well as continuing on my blogging journey! I would love to be making some income from my blog to help me fund all of the amazing ideas I have that I’d love to share with my readers in the future.
Passion Piece: Which motto would you like to share with my readers?
Julianne: When you give hope and happiness to the world around you, you also give those gifts to yourself. When you help another person, you have the power to change their life, but also to change your own!
Passion Piece: Thank you very much for this truly inspiring conversation and I hope that all your dreams will come true soon!
Loving what we do allows us to bring lots of good to the community around us. Most importantly, however, in this way we can kelp people who really need our support to have a chance to spread their wings, wings they often don’t even know about due to various kinds of disabilities or social isolation. Let’s help others! It really gives lots of joy!
See you around!
Photos by: Julianne Meaney