“Music opens paths for healing.”
Whether it’s body, mind or soul, Anthony Gomes believes in this credo wholeheartedly. As the man behind the Music is the Medicine Foundation, a nonprofit he founded in 2010, Gomes has seen it proven time and time again. Now more than ever, he says, people need encouragement and to encourage one another.
“We’ve been quietly working behind the scenes, doing random acts of kindness and goodness in small measures. It wasn’t something I wanted to make too public, but now the time is right to inspire change and inspire people to make a difference in the world,” he said.
There are as many forms of healing as there are music styles. Music is the Medicine has helped children fighting cancer, war veterans, the mentally ill and people who suffer with autism. Gomes said they’ve donated instruments, set up songwriting scholarships and launched a library of iPods for kids to tune into while receiving treatments as part of their stay in a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Blues in particular, he believes, has the power to heal.
“When life gets a little heavy, just put on some BB King and you’ll feel better,” he said.
It’s a small team of volunteers that work with Gomes to take on projects and see them out. The foundation could have grown faster, he said, but that would tie up too much funding in administration. Instead, Gomes is proud to say nearly every penny of the money raised goes directly to helping people.
Many of the projects they take on come to Music is the Medicine through their website. In some instances, they’ve partnered with companies like CVS, State Farm and Apple. And, just as with the foundation he started, Gomes is all heart. While he wishes they could take on every project that’s shared with them, the foundation is modest. Still, he and his team choose whom to help with serious consideration. They listen to their gut, he says, and when a cause really resonates with them and their criteria of using music as a healer, that’s how they know it’s the next one to work toward.
One such cause is a choir from Montreal. Each of its members suffers from mental illnesses.
“I have a personal association with mental illness,” said Gomes, citing his mother’s battle with schizophrenia. “It was challenging growing up. Mental illness was just something we had to deal with. When I heard about this choir, it rang home for me.”
It’s clear Music is the Medicine has made a lasting impression on the choir, too.
“Their psychiatrist said a lot of them wouldn’t be here today if they didn’t have an outlet to sing,” said Gomes. “They started to do gigs and raised enough money to have their own PA system. They made three CDs and the next goal for them is to raise enough money to have a Pro Tools recording studio in the hospital so they can record albums.”
The reach of the organization stems far beyond the individuals it helps. Folks simply coming out to support the cause tell Gomes often of its impact on them and their families. Many have a loved one with autism, or know someone who’s been diagnosed with PTSD.
“At almost every gig, someone comes up… and says, ‘I’m happy you did something to raise awareness. I know I’m not in this alone: you guys are in my corner.’’
Gomes echoes the good vibes.
“It’s such a feel-good thing and I’m really honored to do what I do,” he said. “We’re just a bunch of hippies, but we believe that music can change the world.”
To learn more or donate to the Music is the Medicine Foundation, visit their website at www.musicisthemedicine.org.