April is National Volunteer Month and a great time to honor the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in our communities. Tim McHale, founder, song leader, and guitarist of the Boston Minstrel Company, has seen firsthand how the power of music can work for others since establishing the group in 1991. With 88 minstrels, this vibrant troupe of volunteer singers and musicians have devoted themselves to producing musical programs for the homeless, elderly, and imprisoned throughout the greater Boston metro area, utilizing music to heal people. “Some perceive us as a social group that likes to simply get together and sing,” McHale explains. “But, we are much more than that. We see ourselves as a social justice, humanitarian effort that use our talents and music to see peoples souls and spirit; to move people.”
At their very core, the Boston Minstrel Company is a 100% volunteer organization composed of music therapists at heart. Performing anywhere from 35 to 40 songfests per year, the Minstrels continually try to expand their reach of impact. Currently, the group has 21 venue partners, including the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, the Medeiros Center, Rosie’s place, and Wyman Prison Transition, to name a few. The Minstrels will travel to these venues with instruments and equipment in tow to create a two hour long, interactive musical performance. The songfests generate a lot of happiness and creativity and eventually, the residents become the show. During the last 20 minutes of the performance, Minstrels and residents of the venue come together, begin to hold hands, and speak openly with one another. Many people will talk to how the night has moved them, for example, in shelters, those who are there for the first time will talk to how the music has helped transition them into this whole new stage of life. The healing that occurs is palpable.
The Boston Minstrels Company is an energized group of people who are not only able to inspire their audiences, but whose audiences often inspire them. During a visit to the Pine Street Inn, one minstrel remembers their experience: “Me, I’m just the baseman. But I have thoughts, too, just like the other Boston Minstrels. And I think that the melding of the Minstrels and the shelter’s clients moves me very deeply. I love how we sing back-up as the homeless folks sing lead. And I love how we all hold hands and embrace, Minstrels and homeless folks, all together. This is a beautiful loving event.”
Video clip of minstrels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKRz7VUYSl4
On April 26th, the Boston Minstrels will hold their 23rd Annual Rock the House Fundraiser in Watertown in the hopes of raising money that will go toward their programming. For more information on how to volunteer or become a sponsor, please visit: http://www.bostonminstrel.org/index.htm