‘All these things are this kind of blessings in my life’: Giving back is a passion for Newmarket artist and social activist Glenn Marais
Glenn Marais credits music with a lot in his life: his career, his friendships and many of the amazing experience he’s had.
That’s why the local musician and artist uses has been using his platform to give back to others for decades.
He started small, encouraging audiences at his shows to bring food donations. He heard about different organizations and fundraisers and would keep expanding.
Then in 2004, his six-year-old neighbour, Paige Pedlar, wrote a book to raise money for HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa. That sparked a couple of years of raising awareness and money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Marais wrote the song Like A Child and travelled to South Africa to make a video, too.
Through the book, the song and charity concerts, more than $100,000 was raised.
Marais also used his music and his platform to speak out against bullying with another song called Say My Name, which was released in 2015. He also developed Kind in Mind, a leadership program focused on how kindness helps you be more mindful.
One of his longtime involvements is with Thrive Youth Canada, formerly DAREarts, which creates space for young people to explore their creativity and, since 2006, Marais has worked with Indigenous communities through this organization. Today he is the remote program lead and recently returned from a trip to Attawapiskat.
He said working with these communities and learning from their culture has saved his life.
“I learned so much about the true meaning of connection with family, accepting yourself,” he said.
His most recent initiative is MusicCan, a non-profit he started with bass player Manny DeGrandis to provide instruments and music lessons to youth in need, free of charge.
“All these things are this kind of blessings in my life,” Marais said. “It doesn’t take a lot to give back.”
A lot of what he does involves youth, inspired by his own experiences in school. He said at high school he began experiencing racism.
“I lost my self-esteem, had identity issues and I was just really lost,” he said.
Unlike today, speakers did not come into schools to share their stories or help motivate students, but now he is that person for kids. Marais goes into schools as a motivational speaker and spreads messages of mindfulness and kindness, while also sharing his story and music.
He said it’s amazing “working in the schools and being able to combine my passion for music, philanthropy and for helping people all in one thing.”
MusicCan recently held a fundraiser to, in part, buy a Djembe drum set for Maple Leaf Public School, where Marais has been teaching a drumming program pro bono. Along with playing the drums, it is also about respect and coming together.
Money from the fundraiser also goes toward buying guitars and lessons for kids in need.
“I remember buying my first guitar and it was it was, like the worst guitar ever…and then I bought another electric that was really bad, too, but it was like gold holding that in my hands,” Marais said. “I think for kids to experience that, that’s such a blessing.”
Giving back has allowed Marais to find himself, he said, and to experience contentment and happiness. He said he hopes to see more people doing things collectively and spreading kindness wherever they can.
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