Soldier On hits a chord of success

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer
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Members of the Soldier On program hit all the right notes on their road to recovery.

Before the holiday break, 10 Soldier On members connected on Zoom for eight weeks of virtual guitar lessons with Michael Dias.

Dias is a performer with the Victoria Guitar Trio and an instructor at the University of Victoria and the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Virtual guitar lessons created a safe space for members to learn the fundamentals of reading music and playing the guitar within COVID-19 public health parameters, says Nicole Wray, Regional Coordinator B.C. Soldier On.

“Virtual music lessons also offered a way for members to stay connected and enjoy an activity that promotes wellbeing,” adds Wray.

A guitar was mailed to each member free of charge and was theirs to keep after the lessons concluded. There were varying levels of musical experience, with some never picking up an instrument before.

“I like to help people see that being creative with music is something anyone can do,” says Dias. “The guitar is a good one because it is so portable, versatile, and featured so heavily in a lot of great music, from classical, rock, to folk music.”

Members were given an introduction to strumming chords so they could play 12-bar blues.

“Learning to play a guitar riff that you have heard all of your life from your favourite band is fun,” he says. “It also serves to demystify the creative process, resulting in a feeling of inclusion and a sense of: Wow, anyone can do this with a little practice.”

Guitar lessons were perfect medicine for retired army Corporal Theresa Boucher, who suffered from depression before the course. The Vancouver resident used to play piano, flute, organ, and accordion prior to her trauma injuries. She had never played guitar but says she was eager to learn.

“This course was just what I needed to pull me out of that depression. I was able to connect with other veterans so I didn’t feel as isolated, and developed self confidence that I had not felt for a long time. I looked forward to practising every day.”

MS Felix Healy of Victoria has served in the navy for 25 years and also gave rave reviews of the lessons. He is a former musician but hadn’t played in decades.

“I played trombone in high school for five years but that was 40 years ago. I really enjoyed the sessions, learned to read music a bit better while also learning my fingers aren’t as flexible as I thought. But I will continue to play guitar.”

Soldier On typically organizes sport, physical activity, and recreation camps and activities, as well as supporting Canada’s Invictus Games team. However, Soldier On has recently expanded to include the creative arts and hopes to continue offering such opportunities.

Soldier On is a program of Canadian Morale and Welfare Services. It provides support for serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have experienced a physical or psychological illness or injury. For more information about Soldier On and its upcoming programs and activities, visit the website: www.SoldierOn.ca

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