Self-taught guitarist happy to share music with others

From left, Community Living program participant Terry Coldwell enjoys the music of staff member Keri Compton, centre, and Julie Coulombe. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

When times are troubled, Sarnia’s Julie Coulombe turns to music.

It’s helped her through rough periods of loss and continues to bring comfort as she grieves her mom’s recent death.

“There’s no doubt that music is life changing, the way it connects us with others and enriches lives,” says the 46-year-old self-employed foot specialist.

Now she is sharing her love of music through voluntary programs in the community and paid gigs with Jules & Company.

It’s about self-care, but it’s also about having a really great time, she says.

Coulombe grew up in a home in which music was always in the air. She played sax and clarinet in her high school band. But it wasn’t until three years ago that she picked up the guitar for the first time and began teaching herself.

“I’ve never put it down,” she said.  “I play three or four hours a day; while I’m having my morning coffee, during my lunch break, when I’m at work.”

Work often takes her into local retirement and nursing homes including the Residence on the St. Clair and Twin Lakes Village, where she keeps a guitar handy and voluntarily plays for the residents whenever the mood strikes.

Coulombe also has a growing list of regular gigs, some paid and some voluntary.

About 18 months ago, she began a monthly music program for participants in the local Community Living Activity Centre’s day program for adults with disabilities.

She plays upbeat favourites like Elvis’ “Hound Dog” and Sharon Lois and Bram’s “Skidamarink” that have everyone moving and shaking noisemakers to the beat.

“There are a lot of smiles when Jules comes,” says the centre’s Rebecca St. Pierre-Foster.  “It’s really good to have people from the community come in and provide something new.”

Coulombe also does professional footcare clinics at The Strangway Centre on East Street, and was asked to voluntarily lead an open jam music program there this fall.

Two-hour jam sessions start Sept. 13 and are held the second Friday of the month beginning at 2:30 p.m. They are open to all.

“We’re going to have a hootenanny,” said Coulombe. “No one needs to feel intimidated about their skill level.  We’re just going to have a fun environment.”

Members pay Strangway $2.25 and non-members pay $5.

Earlier this month, she also started to host Wednesday night jam sessions at The Blue Line downtown.

Coulombe said she thoroughly enjoys her volunteer music but decided last winter that she wanted to start playing out on stage too.

“So I went to every open mic I could find in the city and began building my confidence,” she said.

Her first gig was at Coffee Culture in a duet. Now she plays with several musicians regularly. Collectively they are Jules & Company.  Sometimes, they play as a duet, sometimes as a five-member band.

“We have so much fun and play a little bit of everything. The beauty of music is that it connects people,” she said.

On Friday, Nov. 1, Jules & Company is booked to play at the Royal Canadian Legion where the focus will be dance tunes.

The Arts Journal reflects the community’s cultural fabric.  Send your ideas to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.  

Ashley Shepley is all smiles while participating in a Community Living music program led by Julie Coulombe.
Cathy Dobson