|Heather and Seth McCullough know the benefits music provides.|
The retired rehabilitation technician and former owner of some innovative care homes in Swift Current and Calgary, McCullough has brought her enthusiasm for giving the challenged, disabled and often sidelined people in our society a ray of sunshine.
Her brainchild carries the moniker Exceptional Music Adventure (E.M.A.) and it brings the gift of music, either by way of instruments or voice, to those people who are autistic, stroke victims, blind, the elderly in care homes, and a myriad of other disabilities, including people with lost limbs and those with complications from spina bifida.
She and her music director Colin Moorman, along with four dedicated teachers, hit the road with their unusual mobile service, bringing the gift of music and song to people of all ages, regardless of past experience.
"Many people are more comfortable in their own homes, so it just made sense to make it a mobile service," she said.
"We help them find new talents that they may never have thought possible," McCullough said. "We use many innovative techniques like color code teaching, and we can modify and instrument to aide in learning.
"If a person needs to learn to play using the 'sip and puff' method with help, or a foot pedal, or any other impediment, we can adjust our learning methods to meet their needs."
Currently, E.M.A. offers lessons in voice, saxophone, violin, guitar, bass and piano, while other instruments and percussion will be added at the students' request.
This first-ever such program in Canada is being closely followed by the University of Toronto, as well as those who work in rehabilitation therapy and with autism across the province.
"Music is introduced to most of us as a bedtime song, a soothing melody. We have a barrage of music throughout our lives, and when it is taken away, we miss it," McCullough said. "We're bringing it back to people who have not had it in their lives for some time, or never."
Operational for just six months, E.M.A. quickly found a niche in the Okanagan, with 20 students on the roster and Fernbrae Manor adding another nine.
One of her students is a blind woman whose 'inner voice' was recently realized and given wing through the music adventure.
"She sings the blues, and she can really sing the blues. No one knew until she was given the chance," McCullough added.
One of the primary focuses of the new music adventure will be to reach autistic people, both young and old, through the music program, and the proposal has the "autistic society all over it" with enthusiasm.
To assist in the purchase of much-needed musical instruments and equipment, including the dream of someday having a studio with specialized equipment, a fundraiser will be held on Sept. 29 to assist the fledgling company get fully airborn.
Appropriately, the afternoon event takes place at Camelot Vineyards located at 3489 East Kelowna Rd.
The idyllic setting is reminiscent of medieval times, starting with a huge sword embedded in a rock, and the theme continues with a six-foot suit of armour, assorted shields, swords, jousting gloves, a replica of the round table from King Arthur's court and a patio area where a glass of wine can be enjoyed while absorbing the scenery.
A highlight of the afternoon will be a performance by some of the young individuals who have been part of the music adventure program, as well as entertainment from Gordon James, the Zamboni Brothers, a silent auction, a number of information booths and give-aways, as well as munchies from Where's The Bacon food truck.
McCullough, who has always had interesting ways to reach out to people, including running a Patch Adams-style care home that fulfilled peoples' 'bucket list' wishes.
"We helped to enhance their lives," McCullough stated simply.
"And now, I have another dream. I want to give something back to the community."
The Exceptional Music Adventure is a special tribute and lasting legacy that McCullough has dedicated to her daughter who was tragically taken from her.
Anyone interested in the program, can contact McCullough at 250-808-0131 or Moorman at 250-808-4387, or attend the fundraiser to meet them in person.
What: Exceptional Music Adventure (E.M.A.) fundraiser concert with Gordon James, Zamboni Brothers and E.M.A performers.
When: Sunday, Sept. 29 from 2 - 4 p.m.
Where: Camelot Vineyard at 3489 East Kelowna Rd.
Proceeds: To E.M.A. for autistic and all-age disabled voice and music program.