Disabled and disadvantaged put their hearts and lives into a program celebrating their experiences

Music moves us in the most unexpected and subtle ways. A simple key change, chord shift or lyric can set off deep and meaningful emotional responses in even the most jaded of hearts.

For the disabled or disadvantaged, those responses can be profound and even life-changing.

This Thursday night, December 7, the group Wild at Heart will hold a songwriting showcase at The Lost Ones Basement Bar in Camp Street from 7pm until 9pm.

Wild at Heart is a not-for-profit company providing opportunities for people who experience disability, mental illness or other disadvantage to find their own “voice” through music and art. 

It uses art, dance, songwriting, video and performance in the form of workshops, ensembles, projects and mentoring programs enable people to make friends, improve their well being, develop as artists and engage in the community through paid and voluntary artistic work.

All their sessions are facilitated by professional artists, who help participants develop their skills in a chosen creative area.

Phil Heuzenroeder is the artistic and managing director of Wild at Heart.

He says the feature night is the culmination of eight weeks’ work with the participants.

“I think the unique thing about the group of people who’ve come together is that they are a group of musicians and non-musicians, and people who have never written before,” say Heuzenroeder.

“They are all people who have lived experience of mental illness. The kind of isolation that can bring in the community – disconnection from work, from friends, social anxiety, depression – they are all very real, lived experiences.

“So I think the magic in coming together, in some part, is being part of a community. After the first week you could see friendship bonds beginning, people breaking down fears and barriers in a storytelling environment. And so people can come and share that on Thursday night.”

The group has been around for over 20 years, and has been working in Ballarat over the past three years, running short songwriting programs.

Heuzenroeder says he’s interested in building long-term relationships and capacities within the community.

“To keep sustaining what we work on, over years in particular, the way we work is we connect with local mental health services, music connections - whatever avenues we can work with in the community to find people who fit and who need to connect,” he says.

Wild at Heart employs professional songwriters and musicians to work with the groups who come together. Two have come from from Ballarat and two from Melbourne.

“People get a huge sense of joy out of this. Not only out of crafting their own song but out of seeing other people’s songs take shape. People work individually – writing your own story and your own song is a really powerful thing – but there’s a very strong mutual sense of support and encouragement among people. It’s a piece of art.”

Related stories:

Wild at Heart songwriting showcase is at The Lost Ones Basement Bar in Camp Street from 7pm until 9pm this Thursday.