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The Home Tour, founded by singer-songwriter Mary McBride, reveals how experiencing music can relieve those in pain. These interactive performances featuring local and nationally recognized musicians help engage a lost audience into an art form created from authentic and genuine design. A panel discussion, “Rock ‘n Roll That Heals” was held at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven’s Yale Art Gallery to discuss the impact the foundation has made globally.

The tour, founded four years ago, isn’t hastily assembled. A 10-phase process ensures objectives are met and positive outcomes are reached. The band serves to audiences in the U.S. living in “non-traditional” housing, which shelters the homeless, prisoners and veterans, while focusing on healthcare communities caring for patients with HIV/AIDS and mental illness.

“One of the core parts here in Connecticut […] is to work with residents and clients to encourage them to play for each other,” McBride said. “I feel like the more we can have peer-to-peer performances, the better.”

Two years ago, the tour began using creative workshops to write songs with young adults. The majority of these groups have gone through the child welfare system, most of whom are suffering from dual diagnosis.

“The song writing workshops have been tremendous for our folks. It provides a wonderful opportunity to be able to express all types of feelings and thoughts that at times can be difficult to convey. And for them to see a project to the end and perform is really exciting for our young folks,” McBride said.

“Our goal with the young adults is to give them a sense of completion. To have them have a sense of competency at the end of the day. To finish a song is an incredible achievement. The pleasure for me has been listening to these songs and realizing they can stand on their own in any club in America. It’s not just an exercise but a creative achievement as well,” she said.

This mission brings McBride’s band to areas of the world where entertainment groups abroad do not consider visiting because of political strife and active warfare. Among the 25 countries the band has traveled to include Vietnam, Ukraine, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

McBride’s tour places a great deal of pride performing “on-site,” understanding the necessity to accommodate an audience with physical challenges.

“People don’t want to cheer up, people want to connect with what they are going through,” she said. “We are trying to find that balance of allowing people to recognize where they are but also be able to escape where they are, and our song choices are heavily focused on that balance and dynamic.”

Live music being brought to these populations can aid the healing process for many falling on difficult times through this style of artistic expression. Readily available performances like The Home Tour demonstrate to those in need of supportive measures that they are not forgotten.

“Mary’s band has helped transform spaces where people can connect, clients and staff, joining around the celebration of sound and music,” said Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Miriam Delphin-Rittmon.

Author Rick Moody made an emotive assertion in the discussion how McBride’s band in the process has come across an unintended element within the art form of music.

“Part of the surface is to the form itself. It looks like it’s just a community thing. It’s not that. It’s also doing something for what music is and that’s valuable.” 

The International Festival for Arts & Ideas, presented by XFINITY, runs through June 27 in New Haven, Connecticut. Check back here as we continue our coverage and follow along on Twitter: @Innovatorspeak, @ArtIdea, @ComcastNewEng, #artsideas

by Joe Cooper