Calvin Culverwell is a chaplain and the new coordinator of Community Care at Parachute. Here he outlines some of what Parachute is working towards achieving in support of musicians and the wider creative community.
I really struggle to identify as a musician. Which is a strange thing for someone who is naturally self-assured and spent nearly half his lifetime playing instruments, but it’s true. I am so quick to write myself off or talk myself down when engaging in conversations about music and creativity.
It is especially true when I talk to, you know, actual musicians.
I suspect I am not alone in feeling this way. Over the years it hasn’t been uncommon for me to hear musicians I come in contact with refer to themselves as a “rubbish” bass player or a “below mediocre” drummer. How many times have you heard someone play down their vocal talent or speak negatively of their musical ability? A response like that seems so entrenched within a western mindset.
Who I am, and what I have to offer, is just not good enough.
That story, if it becomes the narrative we choose to believe about ourselves, almost instantly dismisses us from being able to effectively participate in creative contexts. By embodying a criticism of self, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow as humans and contribute to something creative and meaningful as a musician.
You see, the creation of music can’t happen without us injecting something of ourselves - our character, our emotions, our experiences - into the process. And as beautiful as that is, It often means that those doing it are confronted with themselves in a significant way. Much of the creative process happens in isolation and creatives can easily find themselves disillusioned as they battle frustration, loneliness, perfectionism and personal critique. It’s a combination that can sometimes result in battles with depression, anxiety, addiction and other issues.
This is the tragic mirrored reality of everything that we love about music and the creation of it. A study of the New Zealand Music industry in July 2016 showed that musicians are significantly more susceptible to struggling with mental health, suicidal thoughts and developing substance dependencies than individuals working in other areas. Because the creative process requires one to put so much of themselves on the line, it seems they can quite easily find themselves at the end of the line.
We want to make sure that we are effective in providing love and support for these artists well before they ever get to that point of desperation. At Parachute, we want to play our part in seeing those statistics improve dramatically.
I’ve dedicated the last decade of my life to working alongside others, helping them to explore fundamental questions of identity, meaning and purpose. It’s become a real joy for me to support others as they move towards fully realising their ambition. That’s why I’m delighted to find myself in this new role at Parachute. It puts me in a unique position to sit with others, learn about their world and afford them the opportunity to effectively navigate — emotionally, personally and spiritually — their creative output.
I’m interested in helping creatives look after themselves by constructing positive narratives about their identity, purpose and the work they produce. I am passionate about supporting them along that journey and being an advocate for what they do. I’m intent on creating spaces where musicians, producers and artists feel safe to be themselves and talk earnestly about what is going on.
And I’m committed to seeing Parachute become a place where we can actively encourage this kind of genuine care and authenticity.
Isn’t that exciting? To think we can build spaces, encourage community and facilitate conversations that nurture our musicians in the best way possible? Isn’t it exciting to believe we can play some meaningful part in aiding those who create beautiful things feel good about themselves and their work? Isn’t it exciting to think we can be a genuine support to an industry that genuinely needs it?
I subscribe, with conviction, to a vision that means we can journey alongside those who need it in an area that I have a deep-held affinity for. If I can help musicians construct positive internal narratives about who they are as creatives and individuals, I will consider my work a success.
And maybe, somewhere in that whole process of journeying with and supporting musicians, I will learn to be ok with loving myself as a musician as well.