The Awesome Music Project presented a night of music and storytelling in support of mental health at Berkeley Church. 

presenters on a stage in historic church venue

The Awesome Music Project explores the transformative power of music through the sharing of stories, songs, and science. We are dedicated to accelerating awareness, research, and solutions related to music and mental wellness.

overhead shot of guests in historic venue

musicians on stage in historic church

musicians performing on stage in historic venue

Robert Carli is the founder of the The Awesome Music Project.

I am a film composer and musician by day, and I have dedicated much of my free time to working with the awesome music project, a charity that is dedicated to exploring the connections between music and mental health. We have several events a year, where we combine storytellers and musicians and scientists. Storytellers read their stories about the healing power of music in their lives, then musicians perform the songs referenced in the stories, and finally a scientist will give some context and explain what is happening in our brains and in our bodies when we listen to music.x

performer on stage announcing non profit event

poet on stage in historic church presenting

singer on stage singing at historic church venue

“To hear a sound is to see a space.” – Louis I. Kahn

What do you think of when you hear this quote and what informed your decision to have the fundraiser at the Berkeley Church?

I’m intrigued by the sentiment to hear a sound is to see a space because I believe that for some that is very true. There are artists who see colours when they hear music and vice versa. For me, the space in which sound is created is of paramount importance. If it is a space that  is also is a  beautiful  environment like the Berkeley church, then it really is the perfect place to perform and experience music.

two musicians singing together on a stage

singer singing on stage with musicians in historic church venue

woman performing on stage with piano and musicians

How were the presenters selected for The Awesome Music Project to reflect and communicate a range of what the project embodies?

When we began collecting stories for the awesome music project we tried to be as diverse as we could so that anyone reading the stories would be able to see themselves to some degree in some of the storytellers. That really informs our decisions on how we select our artists for our concerts as well. We are steered by the idea of trying to create something for all. This speaks to the universality of music and how regardless of language or culture or geography or age, music can be transformative.

musician on stage playing guitar guitar

poet on stage presenting in historic venue

musician performing on stage with guitar

two musicians on stage in historic church

musicians on stage in historic venue

presenter on stage in historic church

What choices were made in the planning process that ensured that your guests would have a memorable experience and allow them to have more options for engaging with The Awesome Music Project.

We are trying to create an experience that can resonate both in your mind and in your heart. To do that we create pairings of storytellers and musicians and scientists three things that are different but are very much connected. When we thought of creating a landmark event Tamark world mental health month, the first place I thought of was the Berkeley church. It is a beautiful historic space, end it seems like the perfect place to listen sing learn and heal.  While our events aren’t religious in nature, and the Berkeley church is no longer a liturgical space, there is something powerfully sacred about what can happen when you perform there.

woman singer in stage with guitar performing

musician singing on stage

musician singing on stage with other musicians

two musicians on stage performing in stage

musician playing saxophone on stage in historic church

What was the process for evaluating the success of the event?

We use various metrics to evaluate the success of our events. Some events are strictly fundraisers, others are where is campaigns, and summer both. We feel our event at Berkeley church was a wonderful way to re-introduce ourselves to the Toronto community after a long hiatus during the pandemic.

woman presented on stage with graphics behind

toronto speaker in stage in historic venue

If someone reading this interview is interested in learning more about the Awesome Music Project where would you direct them?

The first thing I’d asked them to do is put on some cool music and head on over to the! There they can learn about our goals and ambitions as a charity, they can subscribe to our newsletter, they can learn about our events, and our programs. They can also follow us on social media!

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presenters meeting and chatting in vintage church venue

Michele Crockett photographed the event.

BIO: Michele Crockett is a Toronto lens-based artist, educator, and portrait photographer. She uses the camera in all aspects of photography to create a connection with her viewers.

How does your approach and practice of taking portraits translate to how authentically and effectively you captured the guests at this event?

I like to approach all aspects of my photography practice with the thought of connection. How can I connect with the people I am photographing, but also I will also connect with the viewer when they are viewing the pictures.

musician tuning instrument getting ready to perform

man holding up socks from a fundraiser

guests at a music performance in historic church

Teaching at George Brown is part of your portfolio career, how would you instruct your students to approach capturing a non profit event in a way that communicates the core messages of their organization?

As a professor, I am always looking for new ways to engage my students in creative and meaningful ways. Having the opportunity to photograph events like AMP, which is allowing artists of all kinds to tell meaningful stories, is so important. When teaching visual art, inspiration can come from anywhere, from something you read, experience, see and hear. You just have to be willing to see it and in this case, hear it.

man giving speech on stage with musicians with title let it be on screen

cello player on stage playing in historic venue

performers on stage in vintage church venue

musicians singing on stage in historic venue

Being able to speak of the importance of mental health awareness especially now as we are still dealing with the aftereffects of the pandemic is so important. I think it is important to bring awareness to it, but AMP also creates hands-on tools to help through difficult times.

performers on stage in historic venue

woman presenting at podium on stage in historic church

a guitar being auctioned on stage in historic venue

musicians on stage performing in historic church

How would you describe your experience of documenting this event and what were your first thoughts when you were reflecting on your album and in the editing process?

The experience of documenting the AMP event was wonderful. I truly did not know what to expect. I found the juxtaposition between stories and songs so meaningful, as some of the musicians have also written stories for AMP’s book.  I like to think songs are just stories put to music and pictures are just images put to stories. I hope to both attend and photograph other events that AMP puts on.

overhead shot of vintage church venue in audience

table with buttons and postcards for non profit fundraiser

The Awesome Music Project 

Berkeley Church 

Michele Crockett Photograph

Performers, presenters at the Awesome Music Project Berkeley Church event

Astronaut, author and musician Chris Hadfield
World-renowned soprano Measha Brueggergosman-Lee
CTV Your Morning host Lindsey Deluce
Songwriter and fiddler Miranda Mulholland
Guitar slinger Skye Wallace
Roots rocker Tom Wilson
Former City of Toronto Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke
Musician and stroke survivor Ken McCaw founder Eric Windeler
Nobu Adilman and Choir! Choir! Choir!