Alex Klausner grew up with the Gainesville music scene. Now, he is working to make it better.
Klausner, a 30-year-old Gainesville native and UF alumnus, founded Upbeat GNV as a passion project amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group offers free therapy programs geared toward musicians in an effort to uplift mental health within the Gainesville music community.
After a few pilot programs last fall and the official launch of its first mental health workshop this month, Upbeat GNV has now opened registration for its free musician’s process group, launching in March. The organization has been working with local therapists who volunteer their time to the group’s programs.
The March session will be a free musician process group, guided by local musician and therapist Daimian Holiday Scott. The program will function like a talk therapy group and host five people, Klausner said. All sessions currently take place on Zoom, and people who register are encouraged to return each week for the duration of the month-long program. He said all are welcome to return for multiple sessions so long as there is space for new musicians to join.
Klausner had just followed his music dreams to California when the pandemic struck and shut down live music. Returning to Gainesville, he said he sought to help uplift his community during this challenging time for the industry.
As a drummer for Rehasher, a Gainesville-based punk rock band, Klausner said he personally understands some of the mental health challenges many musicians face, now heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Well, if we're in this dark, terrible time, then I want to be one of the people that's doing something to try and make things better for people,” Klausner said.
Growing up with Gainesville’s music scene, Klausner said he wanted to give back to a community that has impacted him strongly.
“I wanted to create a resource for my music scene,” he said. “Those are the people that I love and care about. And those are the people that have raised me. Gainesville music, like, raised me from the time I was a teenager. And I'm here because I'm like, okay, I want to do something that's going to give back to the people that gave me my life.”
Exploring his own mental health challenges, Klausner said he did some research about musicians' mental health. He referenced a book called “Can Music Make You Sick?” which provided statistics revealing the mental health challenges many musicians face.
The data indicated that in a self-reported survey, over 70% of musicians reported high levels of anxiety, and nearly 70% suggested they had suffered from depression. This survey was conducted in 2016, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and affected many musicians’ jobs.
Facing those numbers, the Upbeat GNV team said they wanted to create an accessible way for musicians to get help and connect with others in their community.
Inspired by the organizational model of Nuçi’s Space, a Georgia organization providing accessible mental health resources focused toward musicians, Klausner sought to create a group with a similar function in Gainesville.
“If you’re underinsured or in a position where therapy is just not accessible, this is a way that we can help bring forward affordable, good quality care to our community,” he said.
In addition to monthly therapy programs, Upbeat GNV also offers a free affordable therapy resource guide on its website. Klausner said he wants to highlight low-cost mental health support options and expand understanding of the resources that are available.
“I think what is a real barrier for people is confusion,” he said.
While Klausner and his team sought out to support musicians in facing the challenges COVID-19 has imposed on the music industry, especially pertinent to those who play live, Klausner said he hopes to see Upbeat GNV continue to grow.
“Our goal is to establish a long-standing resource for our community,” he said.
Emma Magee, 24, serves as the lead branding consultant for Upbeat GNV. Though now based in New York, she met Klausner and his co-director, John Gray Shermyen, from her involvement with the Gainesville music scene during her undergraduate years at UF, and Magee said she was excited to help launch the brand.
“We’re trying to bring the passion and the life of the Gainesville community into that mental health space to say, ‘Hey, there are so many ways that you can find treatment, and it’s so easy, and it can be very affordable. Here’s where you need to go, here’s how we can help you,’” she said.
She echoed Klausner’s emphasis on raising awareness of the affordable resources available to this community.
“We want the community to know that we’re here for them and that we have free resources and free classes and workshops and therapists who are dedicating their time to give everybody the most help at the cheapest possible cost, if any cost at all,” Magee said.
As Upbeat GNV closes out its first official February session, a musicians’ mental health workshop by Let it Shine Counseling, LLC, the group sets out to continue its growth.
Registration for the March program is open now. It will be held March 10, March 24, April 7 and April 14th from 7-8:30 p.m.
Contact Valeriya Antonshchuk at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @VAntonshchuk.
Valeriya Antonshchuk is a junior telecommunication-news and political science student at the University of Florida. As a news assistant for the Avenue, Valeriya covers Gainesville's entertainment and culture news weekly. Valeriya was originally born in Ukraine and speaks fluent Russian.