Music brings you together

Tuesday 5 July 2022

“Music, for me, has a power to save, a power to move, a power to create.”

There is heft to a life lived in the way Tom speaks about music and song writing.

“We are a product of our environment – we don’t know it as a child, it’s only with age comes wisdom.

“Some of us get wiser, some of us don’t.”

Contributing the blues-toned track ‘Shadowlands’ to “SongBirds”, an album of original music written and recorded by members of the Ozanam Learning Centre community, Tom has been able to give voice to a story that first started on the other side of the world.

Growing up in the UK, before moving to Australia to make a life in 1976, his career as a social worker took a tragic turn when the breakdown of his marriage left him homeless.

Spending three years on the streets of Sydney, including a stay at the Matthew Talbot Hostel, before finding his feet once more, a constant through all that life has offered up has been music.

Introduced by his mother in childhood, who worked as a piano player at George Mitchell’s minstrel shows during the 1940s and 50s, the sounds of the British Invasion and Motown left a lasting impression.

Coming into contact with the Ozanam Learning Centre from its earliest days in the 2000s, Tom’s involvement with the SongBirds project came about by accident.

“That’s how most things happen in my life, just being in the right place at the right time!”

Gaining the skills to appreciate the structure of song writing and the tension and release present within music, Tom sees his writing style as a reflection of a habit to listen and observe.

“I’ve got a terrible habit of over-listening to people’s conversations on buses, they might say something – three or four words – and I’ll write it down.”

“The song that I’ve done, ‘Shadowlands’, comes from the realism that’s happened in my life.”

Taking part in additional programs at the Ozanam Learning Centre, including Music to My Ears, where he performs as a member of the Forbes Street band, Tom finds that irrespective of where people come from, a sense of community and connection exists because of music.

“Music brings you together, that’s all there is to it.”

“It’s fitting in, like a jigsaw puzzle and you put it together. That’s how I look at it – and we make up a picture.”

For all that Tom has learnt through taking part in the SongBirds program, the answer to knowing when a song is finished remains elusive.

“Is something ever really finished? I don’t know.”

“You can ask about that in life.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, in partnership with the Community Restorative Centre, has released SongBirds, an album of original music written and recorded by members of the Ozanam Learning Centre community.

SongBirds is available to stream/purchase on bandcamp.