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Hub for Good

Meet Mackenzie and Ben. Mackenzie (BMUS/17) and Ben (BEng/16) Di Millo both graduated from Carleton in recent years and are now better known as MACK & BEN, a pop/neo-soul duo.

For as long as they can remember, music has been their life. The two started performing together in highchairs at the kitchen table, later moving on to childhood church duets and campfire concerts.

Music and performance is now deeply ingrained in their personal identities. Like an old friend, it provides comfort during difficult times. That’s why, when thinking about how to connect with and support their community while physical distancing, they turned to music.

“For Ben and I, both listening to and creating music helps us understand and share our feelings,” Mackenzie explains. “Great music helps us feel less alone while we’re confined to our home; music shared by our friends, family and fellow music lovers makes us feel like they’re right here with us. Music can keep us connected through all of this chaos, especially when we’ve run out of words to discuss it.”

And that’s how quaranTUNES was born. Every day on Instagram, MACK & BEN share the names of three great songs to which they’re listening, and invite their followers to use the quaranTUNES template to share their own quarantine jams.

“We found that exploring new music was a great way to keep our minds off the current situation,” Ben shares. “We launched quaranTUNES to share the tunes that were helping us get through the day, with the hopes of learning which songs were helping our friends and listeners get through theirs.”

Thanks to a flood of submissions from friends and fans each day, the duo has been able to create a massive quaranTUNES community playlist that can be enjoyed by all.

But they didn’t stop there. Knowing that their followers were likely feeling isolated (because who isn’t feeling that way right now?), they set out to break down the metaphorical walls and let their fans be part of their music.

“We recently released our first mini-EP, aptly titled “These Walls,” says Mackenzie. “The EP explores the building up and tearing down of both literal and figurative walls. Lately, we’ve felt more confined by our ‘walls’ than ever before. We thought the content of this EP might really resonate with listeners at this time, and would be a great set of songs to record as live videos in different spots around our home. These ‘Homebody Sessions’, as we’ve called them, have allowed us to perform these tunes in new and more intimate ways. We’re thrilled to be able to connect with listeners and friends from all sorts of distances through these videos.”

The two have also been sharing their chord charts and lyrics with their online community, hoping to encourage listeners to engage in living-room-front porch-backyard learning sessions with their loved ones.

For Mackenzie and Ben, this time spent focusing on music and connection has been personally healing, and they hope that their listeners can share in that peace.

“We’re doing our best to create and share content that has a sense of community and inclusiveness to it,” says Ben.

Mackenzie adds: “We have lots to be thankful for right now—this beautiful weather, our health, extra time to grow and create as musicians, quality time with family—but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult and heartbreaking to see what is happening in the world. We want to use our content positively: to tear down walls and encourage others to reach out—to us and to each other—and build connections.”

Follow along with MACK & BEN’s quaranTUNES and Homebody Sessions by following them on Instagram.

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