Ton Beau Quartet violist lends voice to mental health

Alex McLeod, violist and founding member of the Ton Beau String Quartet, says: “Musical concerts permits us to sit down and contemplate life. They give us an opportunity to experience something together but with alternative experiences. We can then discuss what it means to us since we will all experience it differently.”

He will be performing music by Robert Schumann at the second High Notes for Mental Health Concert on May 2 at the Flato Markham Theatre.

Poor Schumann suffered from a lifelong mental disorder. After a suicide attempt in 1854, he was admitted to a mental asylum, at his own request. Diagnosed with “psychotic melancholia”, Schumann died two years later in 1856 without having recovered from his mental illness. (Wikipedia)

Luckily we have come along way since then. Although 1 in 5 Canadians will be diagnosed with a mental illness, 80 per cent of them will be living normal—even happy lives—once they reach out for help.

“High Notes Avante Productions Inc. hopes to do with music and words to mental illness what others have already done to AIDS, cancer, the tsunami and other natural and social causes, “ says Ingrid Taheri, Artistic & Executive Director. “We want those living with mental illness to feel as understood and respected as people surviving cancer and diabetes. Our goal is to empower them to move forward.”

I am happy to lend my music in support of this very important cause,” says Alex who has extended family members who have struggled with mental illness. “One relative, whose family started to search for a solution during the adolescent years, now lives a normal life,” he says. “The family found the right medication to control it before the illness interfered too much with their relationship and life.” He continues to say that stigma makes it more difficult for his second relative to admit that she needs help, and that when she does her options are very limited. Because of the limited amount of institutional support, very minor issues can deteriorate into major crises.  “It’s difficult for the family to effectively intervene although they want to be supportive.”

Alex who has a doctorate in viola performance from the University of Toronto says “We have created this idea of independence in society, that we should live our entire life without needing any support from neither society or another person. Stigma causes it to be seen as a weakness and unnatural to rely on others.”

Alex started playing the violin at age 3 and switched to viola at age 13 when his family was given the chance to buy a viola at a vastly discounted price. He tried it, liked it and is still playing as well as teaching both instruments. “Music is a language that has always been a part of my life. It is a way to explore our own mental landscapes.”

Ingrid agrees: “Music brings people together and has the power of creating social change as it can open up our mind to ideas that our new to us. Come for the music, come to show your support— either way you will leave with something new.”

The second annual High Notes for Mental Health concert takes place at the Flato Markham Theatre on Saturday, May 2, 2015.  It will be an evening of music, hope and inspiration and will feature a stellar line-up of musical and spoken word artists. Joining Alex McLeod are Royal Canadian Air Farce veteran, Luba Goy as host, acclaimed tenor, Richard Margison and his daughter Lauren Margison, the St. Michael’s Choir School, pianist Charissa Vandikas, Canadian accordion champion, Michael Bridge, Dr. Rustom Sethna who is the Chief Psychiatrist at Markham-Stouffville Hospital, Orlando Da Silva, head of the Ontario Bar Association and mental health advocate,  spoken word artist Julie Everson and Canadian conductor and motivational speaker, Boris Brott.

For more information, please call 416.605.8915 or visit our website at  For tickets please call The Markham Flato Theatre at 905.305.SHOW (7469).