B R I A N   K E L L Y

110H Brina Kelly    SOWK_40_12_

After playing music throughout much of the 1990s, I returned to college in Chicago in 2000 intent on studying psychology. After several courses and lengthy conversations with my professors, I realized that social work was a better area of study and practice for me. While pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and ultimately a PhD in social work, I took every possible opportunity to take classes outside the discipline. Courses in gender studies, histories of HIV/AIDS, the U.S. counterculture of the 1960s, and performative research methods opened my mind to important dialogues on intersectionality, critical theories, constructivist epistemologies, and ultimately taught me that context matters.

I never lost my interest in music and have spent several years researching and writing about the intersection of social work and music. The connection between the two is clear: from the days of the settlement house movement of the late 19th century through present day, social workers have used music to effectively engage clients and communities. I’d like to see social work practitioners, educators, and researchers pay more attention to this connection as it has much to offer in terms of promoting strengths-based practice.

Recently, several electronic music journalists and some scholars have written about the history and importance of queer club culture and dance music in the U.S. These authors argue that context matters when we think about the history of club culture, which is now a multi-billion dollar, international industry. At its origin, club culture was often gay, of color, and often poor. Clubs served as safe havens and spaces for cultural celebration, which might also be defined as a demonstration of individual and collective strengths.


I chose Vinyl because …

… I’ve been thinking a lot about this history and the role of music in bringing people together. While it may sound trite to write about “the power of music,” there really is something powerful about it. I’ve seen DJs put on records that have cleared a dance floor in seconds and, similarly, brought tears of joy to dancers’ eyes. Either way – powerful!

This particular record (Light of Love, by The Miracles Club on Ecstasy Records) reminds me that context matters. These producers acknowledge and build on their influences, which are Chicago and New York House, even down to the Keith Haring reference in the center label artwork. These nods to context and history are important as it reminds the listener this music does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is part of a larger dialogue, grounded in queer club culture, which has been developing for years.

As a social worker, I want to know this. I want to bring this cultural and contextual knowledge into my work. Music has the power to teach us much about those we have the honor to work with. I want to keep that up front and learn from it, learn from them, and hopefully boogie a little while doing it.


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