High Notes

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Music can change the world because it can change people - Bono

In the summer of 2020, High Notes Avante Productions Inc., learned it had received a one-year, $56,700 Seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to implement a plan to help isolated people make community connections through music. Given the restrictions the pandemic has brought, its timing hit the right note.

“Social isolation continues to have a profound impact on mental health in our community. This funding support will help many at a time when it is needed most,” said Thornhill MPP Gila Martow.

The grant was originally earmarked for two in-person choirs in Vaughan and Richmond Hill, but the pandemic prompted High Notes Avante to pivot, and develop alternative methods for reaching isolated people with its programs. While, the in-person choir is on hold, a group of 15 people are enjoying meeting through song on Zoom.

“Mental health impacts everyone, of every age, from every walk of life,” said, MPP Logan Kanapathi, Markham-Thornhill. “High Notes Avante Productions Inc connects our community through the wonders of music, giving hope, and raising the spirit of those suffering from loneliness. It’s great to hear they are able to expand their operations, during this difficult time, to help even more people in the community with the $56,700 OTF Seed grant.”

The choir is led by Sina Fallah, who is associated with the Sing Well Foundation at Ryerson University. Funds from the grant have been used to help with staffing, enlisting choir directors, purchasing sheet music and in addition, starting a monthly virtual movie club (led by blogger and illustrator Emmanuel Lopez) and a monthly virtual book club, (led by Ingrid Taheri).

“The news couldn’t come at a better time,” said Ingrid Taheri, Artistic and Executive Director of the small charity she founded in 2014. “With COVID-19, more people than ever are alone at home and looking for something to do while social-distancing. During normal times, pre-COVID, one-in-five were suffering from mental health issues and loneliness. With the pandemic the numbers are rising dangerously and my hope is that those that participate in our free programs will be more resilient and cope better than they would without them,” said Taheri. “So far, it seems to work. Comments such as ‘The choir is the best thing that has happened to me”, “Attending these sessions are the highlight of my week” and “I feel happier after singing” are coming in from participants.”

The sentiments were confirmed over the grant period as researchers from the Sing Well foundation examined cortisol levels (a happiness measure) levels in the singers before, during and after the 30 sessions that are being offered.

You will soon have an opportunity to hear the High Notes Voices choir in a special performance together with Grammy-awarded Canadian Hall of Fame inducted singer/songwriter Dan Hill—in a Concert of Hope concert to be released in January.

High Notes Avante’s mission is to use artistic expression to give hope, connect and inspire those touched by mental illness.

To join the choir email highnotesvoices@gmail.com

To join the book club email highnotesbooks@gmail.com

To join the movie club email highnotesmovieclub@gmail.com

View our first Concert of Hope on YouTube f478bd88-0ce4-2b8d-072a-93f9dfa787c8

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $115 million to 644 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.

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