CT’s new state troubadour Kala Farnham bridges mental health, music

A state troubadour is a musician who performs at state events and is considered an ambassador for Connecticut culture. According to the state, the chosen troubadour must be someone who is well-versed in Connecticut’s arts and history and must be able to “communicate and promote the Connecticut experience through song.”

After over 100 nominations, folk singer and mental health advocate Kala Farnham was the clear choice for the role.


“Given the time, there is such a strong need for this therapeutic aspect of art. There’s been a little bit of a mental health crisis just in general but especially over the past few years,” the Pomfret Center native said. “I think my experience working in mental health [and] working in crisis counseling, and having already worked in bringing music to various types of treatment centers — I think it is a good match for me.”

Farnham wears a number of hats, including being the founder of the Quiet Corner Songwriters meetup, certified crisis counselor, musical theater director, composer and accompanist. Her artistic work has a central mission of reaching out to “at-risk youth, those who suffer from mental illness, and survivors of trauma.”

“This is work that I’ve done in my small community in Northeast Connecticut but I’m hoping to expand out into the rest of the state; bringing creative music expression and the healing element of music to a variety of people,” Farnham said.

Though the announcement of Farnham as the new state troubadour is fairly recent, Farnham said that she was notified back in February that she had landed the role. She said that currently a lot of the work that she has done for the role has been more behind-the-scenes. This has involved brainstorming project ideas and putting together an interactive performance for schools, libraries, residential treatment centers and more. 

“I compare it to the musical version of a poet laureate,” Farnham said. 

Her long-term goals with the position include putting together a comprehensive, multimedia arts project geared towards school-aged children that fosters music education and healing.

Unlike most jobs, the role of the state troubadour is not something that you just send a resume in for. 

A state troubadour must first be nominated by someone, and then the nominee can apply for the position. Bonnie Koba, Senior Program Associate for Arts in Education for the Connecticut Office of the Arts, said that once applications were submitted, a panel of judges reviewed the individual applicants based on a variety of factors including “musicianship in singing and songwriting” and “goals for accomplishments as troubadour relevant to the honorary position.”

The panel then made recommendations to the Connecticut Office of the Arts, who then made further recommendations to the Connecticut Arts Council. The Connecticut Arts Council made the final decision of the choice for state troubadour. 

Farnham will serve at the troubadour until 2025. She is the 18th state troubadour with the first troubadour, Tom Callinan, serving in the role from 1991 to 1992. Farnham succeeded Nekita Waller in the role. 

Before her time as the state troubadour, Farnham’s career has been highlighted by telling stories from people of different backgrounds. Farnham said that sometimes they are fictional in nature but are inspired by her life experience and “highlight the universal human experience.” She has also worked with non-musicians for a process of collaborative songwriting that involves Farnham listening to people’s stories and conversations, and turning them into a song. 

Part of her musical mission is to raise awareness of the mental health challenges, especially for the youth in the state.

“I think we need music that’s going to empower, feel and help people express their experiences that they’ve gone through during the past few years,” Farnham said.

The other portion of her mission is to raise awareness for the education of the arts and maintaining the ability for the next generation of learners to pass along this tradition to the following generation so that they can create their own therapeutic practices through music.

Farnham said that she is currently studying sound healing and nada yoga — two skills that she believes will aid her in her role of carrying on her message as the state troubadour. Nada yoga is the “yoga of sound” that uses different tones and instruments to facilitate a “meditative and therapeutic experience for the listener.” Sound healing is also another noise-based healing tradition that exists in the realm of music therapy.

“I’m hoping that I can introduce that to populations that aren’t aware of that,” Farnham said about the practices. 

#CTs #state #troubadour #Kala #Farnham #bridges #mental #health #music

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.