WHO ARE YOU?
NAME: Mendelt Hoekstra
BIRTHPLACE: St. Catharines
WHERE DO YOU LIVE: Jordan
CAREER: Music Therapist at Bethesda Community Services, Artistic and Executive Director for Momentum Choir and Chief Executive Music Director for Choir Nation
WHAT WOULD YOU DEEM YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
My greatest achievement is raising my children who are ages 6, 11, 13 and 15, to be kind and to contribute to others. It’s a work in progress.
WHAT IS ONE THING THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE WOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I know every word to every song that the Barenaked Ladies have released. Listening to BNL is my guilty pleasure.
WHAT DOES THE WORD COMMUNITY MEAN TO YOU?
A place where each voice is heard. In my opinion, I think that St. Catharines and the Region of Niagara is successful in that. No community is whole unless all the voices in that community are heard.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS?
I have two kittens.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
I was in the middle of a job interview when one of the people said to me, “Mendelt, I think you are successful because you know how unimportant you are.” That advice has stayed with me.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE VACATION SPOT?
My ideal vacation spot is a cabin in the woods where we can hike, swim, build fires and read books.
WHAT ARE SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT YOU?
– My first job was working at a fruit farm down the street from where I lived.
– I enjoy playing and watching basketball. In my first year of university, I ate peanut butter and crackers for a month to save money to buy seasons tickets for the inaugural season of the Toronto Raptors.
– I’m a bit of a houseplant and tree nerd.
– Due to the hard work and success of Momentum Choir, I was given the prestigious 2016 YMCA Peace Medallion. It was an honour to receive such meaningful recognition from a wonderful and important organization.
– I was granted with a St. Catharines Arts Award in the Arts and Education category in 2017.
– As my career as a Music Therapist continued, I realized how many talented musicians lived in Niagara. I was supporting many of them through Music Therapy. The majority of these talented musicians, who lived with a disability, didn’t have a chance to display their talents. With the help of Bethesda Community Services and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Momentum Choir, a highly disciplined, professionally facilitated performance choir, was born. We started with eight members and have grown to over 60. We rehearse each week and perform a dozen times a year. In 2016, Momentum Choir grew and started a brandchise in Western New York. Our hope is that one day, each community has a Momentum Choir so that those living with a disability have a chance to give back to the community through music.
WHAT BRINGS YOU THE GREATEST JOY OR SATISFACTION?
I experience great joy when a group of musicians (could be a choir, group of people, my family or a Music Therapy session) works on a song and it comes together “well.” There are so many ways to define “well.” For me, “well” is when the music has reached people in a deep and profound way. It could be that someone feels better about themselves, feels better about their individual musicality or the groups musicality, feels the music in a way that they haven’t felt before or when the goal that we’ve set for a song is reached.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Clever jokes. I recently bought the world’s worst thesaurus. Not only is it terrible, it’s terrible.
IF YOU COULD POSSESS ONE SUPER-HUMAN POWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Go back in time and be a fly on the wall when the Beatles or Paul Simon were creating and writing their songs.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I’m inspired on a daily basis. With Momentum Choir, I see brave hearted people who live with a disability and refuse to live isolated lives by working hard and diligently on their singing and performing. Many of the musicians of Momentum live with things that are difficult to navigate and do their very best to give back to the community through music. I’m also inspired by people who create spaces for those who live with a disability like Diane Dupuy, who started the Famous People Players and Jean Vanier, who founded L’Arche, communities for people who live with a disability and those who assist them. Diane and Jean are pioneers and trailblazers who have created agencies and communities that will help people for years to come. It’s my hope that one day, Momentum Choir will be spoken about in that way.
IF THE WHOLE COMMUNITY WERE LISTENING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?
In my world, the word ‘inclusion’ is often spoken. Sometimes, affirmation is masked as inclusion. I believe there is a tangible difference between affirmation and inclusion. While affirmation has its merits and is nice to hear, sometimes it doesn’t go far enough.
When I’m complimented on dreaming, scheming and implementing Momentum Choir to what it is today, that’s affirmation. When the classic rock band, Foreigner (yes, that Foreigner, the band who has sold more than 80 million albums, I Want to Know What Love Is) does an internet search, sees the support and inclusivity that the people of Niagara have given Momentum Choir and invites Momentum Choir to sing with them on back to back sold out shows in Niagara Falls, that’s inclusion! Thank you, people of Niagara!
If you haven’t experienced Momentum Choir, you’re missing out on a unique and fun experience that will propel you to have a greater appreciation for the human spirit. If you have seen Momentum Choir before, tell someone about it. Either way, come out for our next show.