Mike holds a guitar.

Mike Farnsworth: Building Community Across Two Worlds

Activism, Outreach and Education

Guitarist Mike Farnsworth’s band, Absolved, may have released its first single in 2021, but he’s been a long-time veteran of the Salt Lake hardcore scene. “The bassist and me, we’ve been friends since we were 15. And I’ve known the other guys through the scene for at least a decade,” he says.

For years, this community has been a place for Farnsworth to meet like-minded people and share his passion for music. “I always say that punk and hardcore is kind of the place for broken toys,” he adds. “It’s a lot of people who [are] a little bit different. We have this niche interest that we all connect on.”

Absolved plays to a crowd of screaming fans.
Mike speaks to the sense of community the hardcore scene has given him while playing with his band, Absolved. Photo: Evan Hancock.

“We just want to keep that going—encourage other bands, encourage people to make more music … anything that helps build and grow and keep people together.”

By day, however, Farnsworth is immersed in an entirely different community. He’s the co-founder and director of marketing for Project Strong, a local non-profit providing recreational opportunities for youth with neuromuscular diseases (NMDs). Farnsworth was introduced to this community through his cousin, who had an aggressive form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He’s been involved with disability activism since he was a teenager, starting volunteer work at just 16.

Project Strong’s programming includes adaptive sports, dance and art. Their main event, Camp Happyland, is an overnight summer camp with activities tailored to the specific needs of children with NMDs. “Every one of us has these definitive growing-up moments and summer camp is a big one,” says Farnsworth. Camp Happyland is a chance for these kids to experience that milestone with no need to worry about how their mobility needs will factor in.

Farnsworth experienced the power of community firsthand in the hardcore world. “For me, it’s the same with things like Project Strong and Camp [Happyland] … because it’s giving people a place to be around their peers,” he says. Even though members of the NMD community may be different in many ways, they share a lived experience in a world that isn’t built to accommodate their needs. “Everybody’s connected … in the way the world interacts with them,” Farnsworth says.

Mike plays on stage with his band, Absolved.
Mike has always preferred being hands on in everything he does. Photo: Evan Hancock.

While his two spheres may not have much overlap on the surface, Farnsworth transfers skills between them to foster growth in both communities. The marketing experience he employs at Project Strong, for example, he first gained by working with bands. “I try to take some of that punk, DIY energy [to Project Strong],” he says. “I’ve always preferred being boots on the ground—someone who’s gonna sit there and do the work.” Benefit shows are a mainstay of the hardcore community, and though there hasn’t been one for Project Strong thus far, Farnsworth has received ongoing support from others in the scene. “I see a lot more willingness to help from my friends in the hardcore scene,” he notes, crediting their DIY ethos. “It’s that idea of, ‘this needs to be done, I can just do it’… And I love that.”

“I’ve always preferred being boots on the ground—someone who’s gonna sit there and do the work.”

Though Farnsworth is hesitant to label himself as a leader, he maintains that the most important thing he can do in both the hardcore and NMD communities is to lead by example. “Sometimes you gotta do the stuff that’s not fun, that’s not glamorous … that idea of perseverance is key,” he says. As a mainstay of the hardcore scene, Farnsworth has witnessed its ebb and flow over the years and is excited about its recent growth in Salt Lake City. “We just want to keep that going—encourage other bands, encourage people to make more music … anything that helps build and grow and keep people together,” he says.

The current objective at Project Strong is outreach—the non-profit took a hit during the COVID-19 lockdown and when operation resumed, many of their connections had aged out of the program or moved out of state. Farnsworth hopes to expand these efforts to reach more parents with children who could benefit from their programs. “We’re trying to find more people who we can help,” he says.

Learn more about Project Strong at goprojectstrong.org or on Instagram @go.projectstrong.  Listen to Absolved’s music at absolved-hc.bandcamp.com/music.

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