Music, community and heaps of heart
Music, community and heaps of heart
24 November 2016
Danny doesn’t believe in “sob stories”. He does acknowledge that he faced some enormous economic, family and other struggles during childhood, including being thrown out of high school early and not expected to amount to much – but his life, he says, is brimming with positivity and a sense of purpose.
He is determined that many of the often highly disadvantaged young people he works with at The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Network at Wyong on the NSW Central Coast, will be able to say the same about their lives one day.
Danny, whose formal title is Work Experience Coordinator, engages with clients through his “Youth Jam” music lessons, concerts and recording studio work, as well as in a wide range of support and training programs.
It was at Oasis that Danny received vital support and encouragement during his troubled teen years, originally connecting with the centre through music events offered for local youth.
“Through Oasis, my passion for music not only grew, but I found an incredibly caring, positive community,” Danny shared. “Being inspired by others at Oasis was part of my motivation to go to uni and study music, as I saw others who had taken a similar path.”
Danny first came to Oasis when he was just 14. “I was absolutely blown away,” he recalls. “There were 100 people here playing music. It was an absolute eye-opener. Not just the music, but the positive vibe and the culture and the whole community thing – it just got me.
“Growing up around here there just wasn’t much to do. I think that’s the same problem for many younger guys and girls around here now. So once they see something that someone else is doing something – either positive like music, dance; or negative like hanging the streets or doing drugs – there’s a chance they might get attracted to it, so it is incredibly important to offer positive experiences and tools for life.”
Faith has been a huge driver in Danny’s life. “I’ve been a Christian my whole entire life,” he said. “In my Aboriginal family when I was young, I used to go to Bible studies. I don’t go to church, but I read the Bible and talk with the Lord.”
Danny thinks that maybe “it was the Lord” who led him to dropping back in to Oasis, after he returned from Adelaide where he completed his advanced diploma in Aboriginal Studies and Music. He started volunteering – running a number of classes; including those in partnership with a local school exclusively for youth with serious behavioural issues.
“When they offered me a position, wanting to make me part of the team I felt over the moon and I’ve felt that way ever since – it’s a blessing – an absolute blessing.”
Danny has already seen young lives transformed and says, “I see with the classes that are going on now, it has made a big difference to a lot of kids in the community. It’s not me; it’s really the power of music and the centre and the people here. I’m just privileged to be a part of that very special thing, that community spirit which is so strong here.
“I tell the guys and girls that we all own this centre and they should also be wanting to help others and looking to contribute themselves here in the future.”
Danny loves his role teaching students from a local school specialising in mainly boys with behavioural issues. “I don’t know how, but we build relationships and I trust them and I give them respect and engage with them because I really care about them (and in a way I do see a little bit of my younger self in every one of them),” he says. “The challenge is to relate to them in a way that you are the positive older role model and help keep them on the straight and narrow. Many may not have that at home.
And, Danny says with a laugh, while his past gives him street cred, his age allows him to be a bit tough with them.
“I say, ‘you guys just don’t have time to be hanging on the street – you need to be at home playing guitar or whatever your instrument and practicing your music!’ And what is awesome is that so many of them actually do that!”
Danny is a firm believer in Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.