Tag Archives: Jon Foreman

FROM THE ARCHIVES: TWLOHA Heavy & Light 2013

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If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know by now that I am a huge supporter of To Write Love On Her Arms. It’s such a wonderful movement and it’s so great to see attention being brought to issues like self-harm and addiction. One of the events I look forward to most is Heavy and Light. As the headline says, it truly is “An evening of songs, conversation, and hope.”

I attended the Orlando date this year (February 18th, 2013) and, once again, was in awe. The music is always amazing, and the conversation sends chills up your spine. This year, a focus was placed on the loss of co-founder David McKenna, who died on December 14, 2012 in a car-accident. Both Jamie Tworkowski and Renee Yohe spoke of the loss on stage, which left many people with tears streaming. The event then moved forward with their message of hope and pushing through the difficult events in life.

Renee Yohe (a.k.a. Bearcat) performed to a crowd of delighted listeners. With an instantly classic voice and the beautiful melodies that accompanied her, one could not help but be entranced by her stage-presence.

With performances by Anthony Raneri (Bayside), Jon Foreman and Fiction Family, Will Anderson (Parachute), and Now, Now, the evening was everything I expected and more. Anthony Raneri is truly an amazing performer; my only wish is that I could hear him cover Death Cab For Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” over and over again. When he later reappeared on stage to join Jon Foreman for “Only Hope,” they both commanded the attention of the entire venue.

The same could be said for Will Anderson, who had many excited girls screaming into my ears, all desperately trying to catch his eye. As every performer did, Anderson communicated with the audience, engaging them, and wowing them as he sang. Now, Now were beautifully real. Between songs, they spoke about being under the weather (though you’d never have known) and joked with one another about needing to stay hydrated. Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right, because their set was superb.

They were energetic; their songs were different and catchy and overall, fantastic. When Jon Foreman and Fiction Family were on stage together, a whole new energy seemed to come about. There suddenly seemed to be more foot stomping, more clapping; it was an experience, to say the least, including celebrating Sean Watkins birthday on stage. I thought I’d seen just about everything until I saw Jon Foreman handing out lamps for their set at the end. “Here, take a lamp,” he said, grinning. “I’ve never done that before.” And we’ve never seen anything so wonderfully amusing!

Of course, who could forget spoken-word poet Anis Mojgani? Again, he amazed the audience, to the point that one girl even passed out! Jokes aside, Anis has a way about him that draws you into the poems he reads, making you feel every word. A Heavy and Light without him would be oddly empty.

Well done to all the artists and the entire organization of To Write Love On Her Arms for another successful Heavy and Light. If you’d like to know more about TWLOHA or Heavy and Light, please go to twloha.com

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Foundation Spotlight: To Write Love On Her Arms

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You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.”
These words are in the opening of the Vision To Write Love On Her Arms has on their website.
In March of 2006, TWLOHA was founded by Jamie Tworkowski, inspired by the heart-breaking story of Renee Yohe (then nineteen). The foundation proved to be ground-breaking. Musicians like Anberlin and Switchfoot started wearing t-shirts in support and people all over the country, and even the world, found themselves inspired; inspired to change.
Many people who were once too nervous to reveal their personal problems to even their closest friends or relatives suddenly had an outlet that gave no judgment. “At TWLOHA we believe that stories are important and valuable, but we also understand how difficult it can be to share our stories with others sometimes,” says Savannah Jaye Thomas, one of the six interns at the TWLOHA headquarters (now located in Melbourne). “[W]henever someone chooses to share their stories with us, we’re honored that TWLOHA can create a space where they feel safe and encouraged to do so.”
The foundation garnered such a following that “To Write Love On Her Arms Week” and TWLOHA Day (Nov. 13) suddenly appeared on Facebook pages, proof that it is more than just a foundation. “All of the TWLOHA days/weeks have been organized and advertised completely by our supporters through social media, so we definitely feel honored. The passion they have for our cause is overwhelming and humbling, and we’re so grateful for it.”
In 2009, TWLOHA partnered with the Kristen Brooks Hope Center to develop IMAlive, an online crisis center operating via instant messenger, just another way TWLOHA have made themselves more accessible to their supporters and the people that need their support in return.
TWLOHA has had a booth every year for the last five years, a move Thomas says, “[H]as provided us with opportunities to promote ourselves, meet supporters, and network with bands that support us.”
A sensation in the music world, TWLOHA has had the support of musicians from the beginning. “Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, was there when Jamie opened the first box of shirts and asked if he could wear one on stage that night. From there, other friends who were also musicians just believed in the story and wanted to support it, such as Anberlin and Underoath. We were also invited to be a part of Vans Warped Tour, opening up more opportunities to be involved with musicians and share our message with their fans. We are honored to have people with such powerful voices and committed fans be a part of our story.”
These voices are often a huge part of Heavy and Light, a TWLOHA gathering held in Orlando. “[Heavy and Light] began in 2007 as a way to create a conversation and night of hope in honor of our friend Casey Calvert, who died a month before. The name came from a blog Jamie wrote in response to Casey’s death. It was such a great night of hope and honesty and conversation, and we decided to carry it on,” states Thomas. “We believe that music has the power to encourage people and remind them that they are alive, and we really enjoy being able to take our conversation and combine it with great music. A good song leaves us feeling like it is okay to be honest and to feel things. We believe that there is a lot of freedom in that. Heavy and Light is an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ kind of event, involving all parts of our staff, from our communication team to our merch and music teams–everyone plays an important role.”
At the 2012 Heavy and Light, a short film plays at the beginning, setting the mood for the entire evening. “Welcome to Midnight,” the words say, bright against the dark background. The tone of the evening is hopeful, to say the least; believing that change is a possibility for both the company and its followers. “We have some really incredible stuff in the works that we’ll be announcing later this year that have been part of our dream for a while, but we’re excited that 2012 is the year that we’re going to be able to make a lot of those dreams a reality for us, including our hope to take Heavy and Light on the road. 
“We absolutely believe that everyone gets a fresh start, but we don’t believe that that fresh start is confined to resolutions on New Year’s Eve. We believe that that fresh start can begin at any moment, but that it begins with a choice to make a fresh start, to ask for help, to change the course of things. Maybe the best way to describe it is that we believe people get to choose a fresh start for themselves at any time. Since there are many people who spend the last week of the year preparing for the clean slate of a New Year at midnight on New Year’s Eve, we decided to join them in celebrating that idea.”

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This year featured performances by Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, David Bazan, Noah Gunderson, Mariah McManus, spoken word poet Anis Mojgani, and even a guest appearance by actress Sophia Bush. Fans also got a sneak peak at the movie “Renee,” based on Renee Yohe’s story and the formation of To Write Love On Her Arms. The film, despite not having yet been released, has already received support from the foundation’s many followers. “We are excited about the film, for sure. We did not write the script or produce it, but we are glad to be a part of it. Our hope is that the movie will connect and move people,” Thomas expresses. “Maybe it’s someone learning about and understanding self-injury better than they did before. Or it could be someone feeling inspired to live a more honest story or reach out for help after seeing the film. We hope it creates change.”
TWLOHA has fourteen staff members and six interns, a relatively small amount in comparison to other foundations and companies, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in passion, determination, and pure character, a community of wonderful people. “One of the most important tasks that our interns do is responding to e-mails from supporters on a daily basis, so it’s imperative that our interns are good communicators. Also, something we really stress in our internship program is the idea of community, and every community looks different. The application process helps our Intern Program Director invite interns who are not only a good fit for the organization but also a good fit for the community they will form when they arrive.”
It only takes one person to change the world, but imagine if a group of awe-inspiring people work together to bring on that change, what wonderful things could be done and created. TWLOHA seems to understand that, one of the many reasons they won the $1,000,000 grant from NBC’s Giving Awards.
TWLOHA is a cause that brings awareness and love in all that it does. Please go toTWLOHA.com to show your support.

“The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead. 

The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know. 

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.”

*Also be sure to check out the weekly feature on the TWLOHA Behind-the-Scenes Tumblrcalled “Song of the Week.” You can also listen to this playlist on Spotify.

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To Write Love On Her Arms: Heavy & Light 2014

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To Write Love On Her Arms’ annual “evening of songs, conversation, and hope” is something I look forward to and am very proud to cover. Each year, I take away something different–and not just my new t-shirt purchase. Heavy & Light 2014 was no exception. With performances by Anis Mojgani, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Mary Lambert, Tristan Prettyman, and The Summer Set, along with some amazing speakers, this year’s event was just as spectacular as the last.

Whenever those words come on the screen, reminding everyone why they are there, and what the point of Heavy & Light is, something like pride swells up inside of me; even though I had no hand in putting the event together, and have no direct relation to To Write Love On Her Arms, when those words flash by, something grips me. That feeling stays with me for the rest of the night.

Starting off with Anis Mojgani, the spoken-word poet entranced the crowd, as usual, with his perfect timing and stunning words. I’m not dismissing the works of some of the greats, like Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, because I cherish their words, but Anis may be one of the most spectacular poets of our time, and to see him speak these words is a wonder in itself.

Mary Lambert took the stage, and in all truth, charmed the crowd instantly. Well-known for her collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the “Same Love” singer stepped behind the keys and entranced everyone with her words and her music. She openly spoke of her own struggles with anxiety and depression, even filling up on stage a few times, leaving no eye in the crowd without a tear threatening to fall. She relayed a story from the awards show she’d performed at, even including a Harry Potter reference. It’s always wonderful to see an artist who’s so unafraid to be themselves, and reveal their humanity. Mary Lambert performed with soul and an undeniable fire, while speaking to the crowd as though she too was stood behind the barricades, waiting for what would happen next.

Following Jamie Tworkowski’s introduction, comedian Kevin Breel took the stage. Breel, at just 19 years old, gave a TED talk, breeching a subject most speakers would hesitate to even approach: “Confessions of a Depressed Comedian,” it became known as. 

 

 

His words rang true with the audience; the feeling of depression creeping in when a person is deemed successful, and should be excited about an accomplishment. Each word seemed to nail the hammer on the head even further, and Kevin only framed this with ‘light,’ making jokes about promising to let someone “much more attractive and with a better voice” step on stage, introducing Tristan Prettyman.

Prettyman is like a musical version of Aubrey Plaza. There is something very real about her, and she jokes about the most normal things–feeling down because everyone on Facebook seems to have it all together, then stage-whispering about how she gets to tour and do what she loves. In her music, Prettyman keeps that same charming quality, unafraid to be vulnerable, or even silly.

The Summer Set provided a fun, upbeat set, making people sing at the top of their lungs, dancing as though they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Brian Dales took an opportunity to speak about when he was feeling pretty down and out himself, leading to the band’s wonderful song, “Legendary.” Having seen them perform at Warped Tour, I knew that The Summer Set were brilliantly entertaining on stage, and over the years, that quality seems to have only doubled, if not tripled.

Once more, Anis graced the stage, and just before he left, he delivered one of the poems I could read in my sleep: “Shake The Dust.” For a moment, everyone was still. This poem has become tradition, one that people wait to hear. I notice a few people in the crowd miming the words, as though, they too, have read this to themselves in sleep.

When Jamie steps out again, it’s like the crowd is waking up from a trance. As one of To Write Love On Her Arms’s founders, Jamie seems to radiate pride, and always seems excited to see how many people have turned out, showing his appreciation for those that have traveled just to be there. When he introduces Jon Foreman, he offers the artist a thanks. Jon had recently had 30 stitches inside his mouth, and they had thought they might have to cancel. However, Jon had decided to push on.

A fan gave him a care package, and he quickly expressed his gratitude, dedicating a song to her.

Now, don’t get me wrong, seeing Jon Foreman perform is awe-inspiring in itself, but it was standing off to the side that it hit me. As he took to being completely unplugged, he led the crowd through the beginning of “Dare You To Move.” The unity in the room was almost too much to handle. In all honesty, I don’t think you’ve known what effects art can bring until you’ve seen a room of strangers grin at each other like old friends because of a song.

That’s what Heavy & Light is about; coming together and, just for a moment, realizing you’re not alone.

 

For photos from Heavy & Light, please go HERE.

 

Also, huge thanks to Mike of Decades In Spain! I lost one of my SD cards during the show, and he was kind enough to help me find it afterwards! Yes, yes, I know–“#PhotographerFail.”

 

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