by CAM TAIT
John Cameron is a veteran entertainer as a gifted piano player and singero taking the Winspear Centre stage May 4 when Crescendo begins should be easy. It’s always good, John will tell you, to have a few jitters before every show. But … this is personal. John is putting together another song, of stories, of hope — and, most of all, raising awareness and funds for mental health — something that has personally touched him.
“It was 1981 when I went to my doctor and got help with a counselor,” John says. “A big part was my faith — I went back to church and that really helped me. I’ve been on medication since 1998, and I really think we have to get rid of the stigma of mental health. If I’m not prepared to get up and tell my story, I can’t ask for much.”
Last year’s Crescendo was, of course, music. But perhaps the corner piece of Crescendo was the musicians and singers who stood up and, under a bright spotlight before 1,400 people, personally shared their own personal struggle with mental health. John softly played the piano as people spoke, making it as compelling and profound entertainment and education.
“I knew there would be a lot of emotion, but I didn’t think it would be to that the level that it was. We’d hear a story, and then play a song, and the audience reaction seemed to get better and more emotional after a story and song.” So, what can we expect in this year’s Crescendo? John uses the f-word: fresh. He says every show has to offer something new and new features to keep supporters engaged rather than “saying, ‘Oh, we’ve seen that before’.”
Singer Mark Mark Masri from Toronto will be returning for his second show May 4. John is proud of the $125,000 last year’s show raised which was invested in the Access Open Minds. “But, I think it’s more than a night of song, and tears, and dance and laughter. It’s about a long-term plan to provide affordable, accessible programs for people with mental health issues. That’s what we really want to do … to save and change lives.”
Yet, perhaps the biggest challenge is admitting that someone has a mental health issue. That’s what John hopes to do: to speak, through song and words, to people in the audience who might be experiencing mental health challenges … and, to seek help.
“Last year, one of our sponsors drug a few employees to the show,” John proudly says. “The sponsor called me to say four of those employees came to his office the Monday morning after the show and said they were dealing with mental health issues and want to to get help.”
Quite the Crescendo, indeed.
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