At work with Dominic Brook, Founder, Musicians Making a Difference
Dominic Brook lives by one crucial mantra: We always lead with heart. As the co-founder & Managing Director of Musicians Making a Difference, otherwise known as MMAD, Brook uses music to empower at risk/vulnerable young people.
From its inception in 2000, when Brook worked multiple jobs to keep this passion project alive, to two decades later where the charity reaches tens of thousands of young people around Australia, MMAD began with a simple dream and a second-hand guitar.
To find out more about how MMAD became one of the most impactful music, dance and mentoring programs, we chatted with Brook about the charity that changes lives through music.
In the Q&A below, Brook takes us through the great big ‘why’ that led to the launch of MMAD, its partnership with Universal Music Australia, how it’s coping through COVID, the initiative which he describes as “8 Mile meets AA”, and much more.
What sparked MMAD as an organisation, what was your ‘why’ at the very beginning?
The why was probably my story. I knew the power of music in my life when my next door neighbour gave me a guitar and believed in me and transformed my life. I knew then that music could give young people a voice like it gave me. I wanted to see other young people have someone who believes in them through the power of music, song writing and poetry.
What were the formative years of MMAD like?
[Laughs]. It was such a dream and a massive love job! I was working a few casual jobs and invested some of my own funds to help young people have access to programs, like our camps.
We had zero funding for a number of years. We knew that music could be a powerful tool and language for young people and kept volunteering on the frontline because it worked. It was changing lives.
It’s all been organic in growth since then. The support has come because of the results. We had to pave our own way. No one was doing what we were doing back when we first started.
What are the biggest changes that have been made to MMAD since then?
Having our own office, studio, staff and having capacity to have a bigger impact. Seeing the young people a part of MMAD 20 years ago go on and make their own difference and reach their dreams and help with MMAD young people today.
The support from the music industry has been great. We were on our own and called Musicians Making A Difference but didn’t have much industry support. But over the last five to eight years that has started to happen and MMAD has found its groove and its place in the world to inspire the industry and young people.
What are MMAD’s key principles to ensure the work you’re doing has an impact?
We always lead with heart. It’s more than a job, it’s our purpose and passion.
We always strive to be innovative in addressing complex issues.
We empower our young people to find their place in the world. MMAD isn’t just a handout, it’s a hand up.
MMAD has been very active despite COVID-19 restrictions. What are some ways you’ve adapted?
Well we started off in shock! Asking ‘what are we going to do?’, to running 14 online creative mentoring initiatives every weekday across three Australian states. We connected with a lot of kids who really needed and appreciated the support.
A lot of our group programs transitioned online and we more successful than we thought. Our programs with Sony and Universal continue to go ahead online and are working towards MMAD Day on December 4.
Now we are looking at building more content to reach our purpose and mission. I feel our young people need support and to find their voice more than ever. There has been no connection to community and groups during COVID and we have seen a large rise in mental health and depression with young people in our areas.
You have creative youth leadership initiatives among your many projects. Tell us about Rise UP and Youth Rep Crew.
Rise UP is a partnership with Universal music where we help build leadership skills in young people who have overcome adversity. Together we help them learn basic skills of the music industry, through to leadership so they can go on and make their own creative difference in the world.
This leads to our annual MMAD Day campaign on the first Friday of December. It aims to celebrate the power of music and shine a spotlight on MMAD by raising awareness for the charity.
With our Rep Crew, we open up opportunities for young people who have graduated to represent the cause and, if they’re comfortable, share their story so they can inspire other young people going through similar challenges.
Do you have a favourite MMAD initiative since launch?
There’s a lot, but if I could pick one…. [sighs] I’d choose BreakFree. BreakFree is something special. It’s like 8 Mile meets AA where young people set goals and break free from negative cycles.
It has a bit of everything of MMAD in a small amount of time. Music, mentoring, belonging, hang time, creation. Some of our most vulnerable young people that are really seeking that support to break free from childhood trauma and addiction find a home and sense of belonging to help them heal.
Our original flagship program, 3.5.1. Camp – an urban music camp – is a life a transforming initiative. For many young people, this camp is a springboard to a better future. Many have gone on to do incredible things in the industry following this experience.
Hear Dom’s full story in MMAD’s podcast series, Rhyme and Reason:
How can youth get involved? What’s the process?
What are you working on now that has you excited?
I definitely think finding ways to replicate and sustain what we do nationally and expand internationally, whether that’s online or empowering creative mentors so that we reach and impact more young people.
Every young person deserves someone that believes in them and the opportunity to live their potential.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.