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Our History

Tunefoolery was created in 1994 at the Cambridge-Somerville Social Club, a mental health drop-in center. Starting with four musicians, today Tunefoolery has over 60 musicians who perform over 300 gigs every year, most within the Greater Boston mental health community.

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 staff positions in the areas of Booking, Communications,  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. This was a devastating blow to our community but thanks to the recognition and respect Tunefoolery possessed, the Massachusetts 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 perform music, and bring our Rolling Coffee House and Music & Mindfulness groups to shelters, hospitals and mental health programs in Massachusetts and beyond.  We our own space in the Solomon Carter Fuller building for meetings and rehearsals along with a recording studio.

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.


Theresa Thompson

Theresa Thompson is a psychotherapist, musician, and teacher. Inspired by the talents and stories of people in mental health recovery, and struck by the focus on symptoms and pathology in the mental health system, Theresa co-founded Tunefoolery Music with Mark Irwin in 1994.

She hoped to create a program that was based on a different way of thinking about people in mental health recovery: one that looked beyond symptom management and focused on each person’s talents and potential.


A Fulbright scholar, Theresa holds a BA from The Ohio State University and a Masters Degree from Lesley University. She also studied viola performance at The Longy School of Music.

Theresa smile UPDATE.jpg

Mark Irwin

Mark Irwin co-founded Tunefoolery in 1994 with psychotherapist and fellow musician, Theresa Thompson. After some time doing volunteer performances at the Cambridge-Somerville Social Club, a drop-in center in Central Square, Cambridge, MA, Mark was motivated to create a place where musicians in mental health recovery could not only make money from performances, but further their musical abilities and share their talents and experiences with the community.


Since stepping down from his many administrative roles at Tunefoolery, Mark enjoys playing piano, cooking, keeping an active social life and creating visual art.

Help us bring music and joy to shelters, hospitals, etc.

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