Music and live performances offer an experience to let our problems and struggles take a back seat, if only for the length of a song or live set. No matter the genre, music has been known as a way to bring people closer and experience something. Whether it's the lyrical message, the musicianship of a well-composed song, the quality of the production, or even something greater, music can provide a sense of comfort and purpose.
What is often overlooked at times is what exactly those problems are that we allow ourselves to shut off rather than speak about them. Jake Luhrs, singer for August Burns Red, aims to change that with his nonprofit organization, Heart Support.
Luhrs started Heart Support five years ago, under its original name Your Life. The inspiration for the organization came when he took over as vocalist for the band, chatting with kids at shows.
"I would go and talk to fans at the merch table. A lot of the times, some of the kids are just like really thankful and stoked to shake my hand and talk about the music," Luhrs says. "And then a lot of the kids started to talk about things that they were struggling with and saying 'I was a heroin addict but me and my buds at my safe house would listen to 'Composure' every day and it helped us to stop doing heroin.'"
Seeing this, Luhrs met up with a longtime friend in Chicago for lunch, providing him with cash to pay for his help with the site, along with his list of ideas. Years later, Heart Support launched a video titled "#unitethescene" explaining more of what the organization is and how they want to change lives and bring people together.
The site offers the ability for users to post about their struggles and open up to one another, while also hearing about experiences from some of their favorite artists. In the video, Luhrs and other members of Heart Support explain how they need help from the community to continue to make this happen. They explain that a contribution of three dollars a day, or in their case, the amount of a cup of coffee, is all that is needed to help further the goal of bringing musicians and fans' stories forward.
"The Unite the Scene campaign was made to spread awareness of unity for people who are a part of the music scene that we should all come together and encourage one another," Luhrs says. "When we're all in this one room together listening to this music and singing it passionately together, there's a lot that's actually happening there, more than just having a good time. I want these people to look to their left and look to their right and know that these people are just as real as they are."
At the time of compiling everything together for the site, Luhrs spent his time researching more than 100 bands that Heart Support would plan to ask for their support in helping the music community. The response proved positive and Heart Support's website lists bands such as Senses Fail, letlive., and A Day To Remember as artists that are part of the organization.
It should go without saying that there are musicians who are still appreciative of the people that got them to the point where they are now. Having a foundation where they can share their own struggles beyond the stage is a platform that can bring everyone closer together to talk and prevent all too common tragedies. When asked how this kind of community would have affected Luhrs while he was growing up, he states how knowing people were listening would have meant so much.
"You can talk and be open about anything in your life that you're going through," Luhrs says. "That would have been amazing for me to be able to just sit at my computer and talk about all this real stuff. Looking at all these other stories from all these other people, and not only is it nice to vent, but it feels great to have people listening to you. Then you start to look at other people's stories and start to realize A. I'm not alone and B. maybe my situation's not that bad."
Heart Support has launched a platform that aims to bring everyone closer together, and some of its future goals plan to expand on that even more as the organization grows.
"I want counseling. I want professional counselors; that's what I want," Luhrs says. "My biggest goal, the vision, would be that nobody in the music scene has to struggle alone. Everybody's got somebody. My thing is I want counselors all over the United States so that when these kids choose 'Hey, I wanna get help,' we can help them."
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