Written by: Shane Trowbridge
It’s kind of funny when I think about how this all came to be. I remember getting a text message from Adrian about something he needs to talk to me about and is really excited to tell me. Apparently, him and Jordan spent the night coming up with ideas about a business. They finally came to the conclusion that they wanted to blend the idea of psychology and music together. They called me up and told me to go to the waterfront and talk about this idea.
I remember we all sat down, and they just spilled everything out on their idea, about helping people with mental health differences or disabilities through music. Not in a “music therapy” way… in a way where we teach them how to play and create music themselves and give them an outlet in which they can freely express themselves when they have a hard time doing so. After they told me everything, I remember just pausing to laugh. Mental health is something that has been so important to me growing up, as it ran in my family and I, too, suffer from a mental illness. I just thought to myself, this is exactly what I want to do. Music has helped shape me for who I am today and helped me express myself where words failed to, now it was time for me to help others find the same path that I did. I also remember Adrian looking very vulnerable when I started laughing, he asked if I even thought it was a good idea, and I told him it was a great idea. I was immediately on board. Keep in mind, this idea was first thought of in June, 2019.
We constantly talked about different ideas on what we can do in the business like: opening a music centre where people have a place to express themselves, 1-on-1 music lessons, group music activities, workshops, even create accessible instruments for people with physical disabilities, as Jordan was also a guitar builder and very handy. We all had different skill sets that we would implement in our foundation of the business;
Jordan, having expertise in business strategies and finance.
Adrian, having expertise in psychology and helping people with mental health differences on the frontline.
Myself (Shane), having expertise in musical composition and education.
All we had was an idea, but no idea how to physically start it. We asked a friend that we knew if she could help us in the right direction. She graciously offered a helping hand and gave us all the tools we needed and programs we could apply for. That’s how we found out about the Libro-EPIC Social Enterprise Pitch Competition. We thought; let’s do it! We applied and met with the program lead, Sydney Thompson. She told us that she liked our idea and showed us how to apply.
As we prepared for the presentation, I became quickly aware that I’m not good at public speaking. Even practising would give me a panic attack and I wasn’t able to talk. I remember stating, half-jokingly, “if I could just play the guitar for this, I would be completely fine.” Adrian then suggested that I should play the guitar for the presentation, as our business is to accommodate people with music, so he accommodated me with the presentation. The day came, we dressed up in suits and became the most overdressed people who showed up. We presented with 6 other social enterprises, super nervously. We did our pitch (which I played the guitar for) and sat down. Next thing you know, they picked us and 3 other social enterprises (Grown Lady Garments, Kindness Cafe, and West-side Farmers Co-op). We were floored, I couldn’t believe it. I even remember Adrian looking at me saying “Really??”
The next 4 months we spent with EPICentre as they helped us get to where we need to be; giving us mentorship, workshops, space to work and overall, the most encouraging attitude possible. They took us in and believed in our cause. We knew at this point, this is happening. We are all ever so grateful to them for what they have done for us.
Flashforward, we completed our program and now we are finally pursuing our long-awaited free-trial on our intensely researched psychological approach to our music lessons. As I stated before, we only developed this idea 9 months ago, and we have achieved more than we could ever imagine with the help of great people at EPICentre and our support through family and friends.
Mental health and physical disabilities are a serious thing that people often disregard. There is support everywhere but still, the community is not as educated in terms of accepting that this is a real thing that people struggle with every day. It’s misunderstood, underfunded, and underappreciated. Everyone is different, and everyone learns differently. At Half Step Away, we understand this. We create accommodated programs for people using a psychological and artistic approach to music. There is no better way to express yourself than art, and we are here to help with that.
No matter what differences you have, at Half Step Away, you are only a half step away from being able to create a wonderful piece of art, and there is no better feeling than that.