May 17, 2024 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

The King’s community knows Dr. Joseph Michalski as a Professor of Sociology and King’s Research Excellence Chair. But did you know that since 2015, he has lent his musical talents to King’s monthly support of St. Joe’s Café?

Dr. Michalski’s musical journey began after speaking with Father Michael Bechard, former Director of King’s Campus Ministry, and Annette Donovan, Campus Minister, about various Campus Ministry initiatives. Dr. Michalski began as a server at St. Joe’s Café, but when Donovan mentioned they needed to increase their pool of potential musicians, he volunteered.

“Music at the café enhances the feeling of community. It brings joy to clients and volunteers alike. It reminds us of our dignity as people, on a journey together, constantly discovering and rediscovering our shared humanity,” says Donovan.

When he started playing at St. Joe’s Café, Dr. Michalski had little confidence in his musical abilities but wanted to connect with and help out his community. Over time, he discovered what kind of music people appreciated and, in the process, found his voice. “For me, it's a great opportunity to connect with people from different backgrounds, to engage in meaningful fellowship, and to remind myself of the many blessings I've been privileged to enjoy,” he says.

While many at St. Joe’s come for the meals, Dr. Michalski believes many come for the camaraderie and the chance to unwind. He likens it to the equivalence of a coffee shop with the chance to listen to live music. “I always wear a tie as a sign of respect for the ‘audience’ and then try to deliver songs that they seem to enjoy and/or request,” says Dr. Michalski.

Having actively worked on hunger issues since 1980, including with The Hunger Project, Dr. Michalski would recommend volunteering at St. Joe’s Café or in any other way to make a difference in people’s lives.

“We all have distinct abilities and energy that we can commit to what we see as valuable. We never ‘solve’ all the problems once and for all, much like our relationships in general. Everything requires daily work and effort, without which things eventually fall apart,” says Dr. Michalski.

Recently, Dr. Michalski took the next step in his “much-delayed musical career.” His first-ever album, titled 62 Since 62, will be released in June. The first single, “Time to Sail,” was released on Spotify and all streaming platforms on May 16.

While he doesn’t consider himself a particularly talented singer or musician, Dr. Michalski noticed that people seemed to respond enthusiastically when he played certain songs he had written. He realized that the voice and storytelling techniques he used in the classroom to inspire King’s students might work in a different creative context: music.

He also received encouragement from his producer, collaborator, and son, Caleb, aka CxViolet. “He encouraged me to record my music because he felt like I had some interesting things to say and that I should never use my age not to try something new,” says Dr. Michalski.

Dr. Michalski says his music focuses on soft rock, folk music, and storytelling. The album's name comes from the fact that, born in 1962, he turned 62 on May 16, 2024, the date of the first single’s release. The album title is “also an open-ended expression of life's continuing journey and the possibilities that exist even much later in life.”

He describes “Time to Sail” as an expression of thanks by a parent to a child. “More often, we hear songs where we're thanking our parents or those who came before for all they've done, but I wanted to flip the script a bit. In a nutshell, it's a song to thank one's children for all of the lessons and inspiration they provide for their parents along the way,” says Dr. Michalski.

Dr. Michalski admits recording his first studio album was “nerve-racking” but says that’s always the case when anyone steps out of their comfort zone to try new things. “As with any endeavour, though, it's especially fulfilling when you have a great mentor or expert guide, which I happen to have with CxViolet,” he says.

What Dr. Michalski says he enjoys most about creating music is what he enjoys most about science: “the creative process of discovery and that deep sense of satisfaction that one gets when everything ‘comes together and makes sense.’ Put differently, both science and music can ‘resonate’ with the listener and can profoundly change one's understanding and experience of the world.”

More of Dr. Michalski’s music can be accessed on his YouTube channel, “The Dr. J. Experience,” which will include the music to be released under his Lost Chair Society record label. Viewers can currently watch “Our Lives in Passing,” a video Dr. Michalski recorded in 2015 describing how the song came to be and a raw, live performance.

He says the channel will include “an unbridled enthusiasm for all things music-related!” Every Friday, one new video will be released, mostly original songs, a few covers, commentaries on different aspects of music, reaction videos, and interviews with musicians about their creative processes.