A Place and A Purpose: Finding Meaningful Work

Music Hall, The Art Museum, Aronoff, FC Cincinnati, The Reds…these are a few of Joe’s top passions. He is a big Cincinnati arts and sports fan. At Melodic Connections, he plays guitar and drums and is part of the Hero Radio Podcast team. His most memorable podcast interview – there have been over 30 interviews across three seasons – was with John Morris Russell, famed conductor of the Cincinnati Pops.

When Joe’s family expressed interest in finding him meaningful work, Melodic Connections’ Justin Todhunter was given a mission – uncover opportunities that match Joe’s passions. Although Joe has held positions at Live Oaks, Frisch’s, and Easter Seals, his family knows he’s destined for more.

In this interview, Justin talks about finding meaningful work for Joe and other students. Justin has been with Melodic Connections for two years and has his hand in many projects including Music Conservatory, Musical Books, and Hero Radio Podcast. He has also been in the Cincinnati-based band, Jake Speed and the Freddies, for 20 years.

His duties at Melodic Connections expanded last year with a new employment program. Now, several students including Joe, Quincy, Daniel and Tyler are actively searching for the right opportunity that will provide value to their community and fulfillment in their lives – which is something we can all relate to.

Career Discover & Exploration

“The first step is Career Discovery, where we start with a list of dream jobs. I ask, “If you can work anywhere, where would it be?” We write down any place they have interest in. For Joe, this has been arts and sports venues around Cincinnati. After we’ve brainstormed all interests and locations that match those interests, we put them in order.

The next step is observation. If it’s a public place like the art museum, we to there and watch employees work. We observe different positions and see what it takes to do each job. We discuss what we see, what seems difficult, what could be overwhelming, and what he likes. Sometimes we talk to the employers about the requirements for various jobs.

Then we move to Career Exploration, where we narrow down the list of potential places to work. Once it’s narrowed down, we identify skills that need more development and we work on those skills.

Ideally, we’re looking for a paid position, but we may need to get our foot in the door with volunteer work. For example, Joe loves the CET Action Auction so we went to the TV station and talked to them about volunteer opportunities. He also has an interest in volunteering at Guardian Angels school. I attended the school and know the music teacher. He’s the same teacher I had as a kid, so I’ll be reaching out to him.

After Career Exploration, we submit applications and hone interview skills. We’ll role play an interview with popular questions an employer may ask. We’ve been working on diction, being loud, and making eye contact. There’s a lot more to Joe than he shows initially. All it takes is a spark of something he’s interested in for his personality to come out. There’s so much right under the surface that we want employers to see, because we see it here.

Joe’s sister takes him to the interviews and he’s had two so far. We’re waiting to hear back from those places and we have 3-4 more location visits to make.”

Hero Radio Set a Foundation 

“I’m also working with Quincy on job placement. He and Joe are both part of the Hero Radio Podcast Team and they’ve built a good foundation of communication and organization skills. When choosing guests, we start with a list of people they have in mind. I have music connections in the community too, so I’ll help if they need ideas. For each interview, the team develops and asks the questions. All interviews are conducted in person, usually at the guest’s home, and the team is responsible for setting up the equipment. Then we edit back at Melodic Connections’ Studio. We first record just the guests answers, then record the questions at the Studio and splice them in. That way, they have multiple takes to get it right. The team creates each track, puts them in order and uploads them.

The Podcast crew is definitely a team – it’s great. Quincy is a leader and knows who’s turn it is to talk or if someone skipped a question. He’s good a the introduction too and doesn’t need a card for it. Joe is completely engaged as the interview is going on – he’s locked in.

The group has been together for at least three years and they’re close. When we go looking for jobs, we’ve talked about how Joe does not want to miss Podcast. He loves it and wants to keep that day carved out.”

Quincy Contributes at Madcap Productions

“Quincy currently works at a laundromat, but we’re trying to find a job that matches his interests and is a positive environment. He’s a volunteer at Madcap and creates puppets. It’s a great creative outlet for him and he’s good at it.
We’re hoping to expand his role. For example, there’s a show coming up where he can be a greeter and that plays to his strengths. Quincy is a character – he has charisma and lights up a room. He loves kids, so he could have a puppet and do a voice, “Welcome, here’s your seat.” If Madcap sees more of that from him, we’re hoping it will carve out a position. With volunteer situations, it lets employers see students for who they are, and it opens a door.”
Creating Opportunities 
“Daniel loves drumming and minor instrument repair such as stringing instruments. But there aren’t many jobs in that area, so we need to think outside the box. How can we create a job? That’s something I can do with employers one on one. Show them our students’ skill sets and match what they need done. They may not have an open position that checks all the boxes, but can we make something? Here’s what he can do, here’s what you need done – let’s make it happen. Some employers are open to that.”
A Rewarding Challenge 
“Employment is the most challenging thing I do here, but I love it. I’d be so happy to see Joe and all the students find employment that’s more meaningful than where they are. If they can get paid – that’s amazing. But even if we find a volunteer situation where they are happy for the time being and can carve out something for the future, that would be meaningful too.”
Do you know of an opportunity or have connections at a company that could be a good fit for one of our students? Please reach out to us! You can message us on Facebook or email Christina@melodicconnections.org.