Mission and Story
Tunefoolery Music, Inc. is a non-profit organization for musicians in mental health recovery. For over 20 years, we have been a community where musicians find purpose and identities as creative performing artists. Our musicians have performed for almost 200,000 people (as solo acts or ensembles) at mental health centers, hospitals, conferences, nursing homes, etc., as well as for the general public. In this era of reduced availability of mental health services for many low-income people, we emphasize our musicians’ strengths and the endless possibilities of healing and recovery.
The healing process for people in mental health recovery can be a very painful journey where one’s traumatic experiences and shortcomings often become the focus of the process. In Tunefoolery, we use music, creativity, paid work, and a loving community as a way to transform people’s lives and create a foundation to become productive, skilled musicians who can share the gift of music and hope with others.
Use music-making and community-building to provide individuals in mental health recovery with opportunities for hope, healing, empowerment, employment, self-reliance, and socializing.
Perform high-quality music for those who lack access to live performances, especially for other people in mental health recovery.
Eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness through dialogue, education and modeling the true talents and strengths of people with mental health conditions.
The outcome of Tunefoolery’s work:
• Improved mental health and recovery for our musicians
• Paid work for our musicians
• Role modeling and hope for other people in mental health recovery
• Reduced stigma related to mental illness
• Education about the possibilities for people in mental health recovery
• Professional and inspiring musical entertainment
Tunefoolery was created in 1994 at the Cambridge-Somerville Social Club, a mental health drop-in center. Starting with four musicians and a $2,000 grant, Tunefoolery had 24 gigs in its first season. Today Tunefoolery has over 55 musicians who perform about 150 gigs every year, most within the Greater Boston mental health community.
In 1997, we launched our Education Outreach Program, with the goal of reducing stigma by visiting schools to talk about the talents and potential of people with psychiatric disabilities; since then, we have visited over 50 schools and universities.
Since education and opportunities for professional and personal growth are essential parts of successful mental health recovery, we created our Music Scholarship program in 1999, offering music lessons and workshops to our members for a nominal fee. Since 2001, we have also offered our musicians a yearly, three-day summer retreat where music-making, workshops, and community building fill our days.
To support our administration and to create more paid work for our musicians, we have established musician-held stipend positions in the areas of Communications, Gig Coordination, Concert Management, Marketing, Financial Management and Development.
A new chapter in Tunefoolery’s history started in December 2008. As a result of massive state budget cuts, the Cambridge-Somerville Social Club, Tunefoolery’s home, closed its doors to over 350 persons in mental health recovery. Tunefoolery’s budget was also cut by 20%. This was a devastating blow to our community. Fortunately, thanks to the recognition and respect Tunefoolery already possessed, the Department of Mental Health offered us a new space in Boston’s South End. As we began a new era, we registered Tunefoolery as an independent nonprofit organization: Tunefoolery Music, Inc.
Today, we publish a monthly online newsletter with updates about our gigs and events and with contributions from our musicians. We have built our own recording studio and have produced three CDs that highlight the talents of our performers.
The history of Tunefoolery has been full of powerful, memorable moments. We have witnessed growth: personal, musical, and professional. Because of the organization’s emphasis on democratic process (our musicians have always been involved in policy and programming decisions), we have also seen how involvement, pride, and ownership contribute to each musician’s healing and recovery. And we believe that our best times are still ahead of us.