Community of Harry Potter-themed musicians acts as surrogate family and support structure
By McKenzie Wall
Lena Weinstein was nearing desperation. As her last resort, a final plea for sanctuary, she posted a video blog on YouTube, expecting one or two comments of support from her closest friends. Within seconds of her post, hundreds of comments appeared, offering support, advice and even phone numbers
of people wanting to help. Lena was overwhelmed. Over the next week, she received hundreds of hats, scarves, letters, CDs, books, motivational cards – all from people she had never even met. Most of these mysterious good Samaritans didn’t know her, but they were all Wizard Rockers.
She had been suffering for weeks at the hands of a disease that
had plagued her since the age of 11: tricoellomenia, or a compulsive need to rip your own hair out. It would develop quickly, charging her into weeks of obsessive hair pulling — she even felt forced to hurt herself. The urge would become so uncontrollable she was forced to wear scarves or hats, hiding the bald spots from her family and peers. Because of the rarity of this condition, she was ashamed, even secretive, of her issues and afraid to reach out for support and understanding.
That was until she found a community in Wizard Rock, music of any genre that is written about the stories of the pop culture juggernaut Harry Potter, the character developed by author J.K. Rowling. Wizard Rockers offered the type of support she hadn’t been able to find elsewhere. Lena went on to tell her story about the overwhelming response to her YouTube blog at a Wizard Rock event. The reaction was overwhelming: the audience was moved to tears and others with this disease came forward for support. Lena says, “The only thing that tied me to them was their love of Harry Potter and their love for the music that I wrote. That is what the Wizard Wrock community means to me, that people would go out on a limb for somebody who they don’t know at all because of this genre of music.”
There are over 350 known Wrock bands, and most of those groups have gained some level of fame in the Wrock community. Lena herself is no exception: she is the lead singer and pianist for The Butterbeer Experience, has released three well-known Wrock albums (Accio Hot Guy, The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Non-Alcoholic) and participated in several Wrock mash-up albums. These bands range in ages — including kids — and the fans range in age and interests as well, creating a unique community that revolves around Wizard Rock.
Since the day of the post, Lena has met six other Wrockers with the same condition. She talks to them regularly and can depend on them when her condition returns in full force. And she is not the only Wrocker who has reached out for help. Sometime after Lena posted her cry for help, another person battling serious thoughts of suicide came forward. People from the Wrock community responded immediately, telling her not to do it and that she could make it through. These are just two examples of the exemplary support the Wrock culture encourages.
According to Lena, the Wizard Rock fan base is comprised of “people that care. Every person matters in this community.” A community centered around a love for Harry Potter isn’t a norm for most of us, but for Wrockers, it’s their extended family. One of the most important elements of this community is the sense of equality that brings these people together: “there isn’t a distinguishing difference between a Wizard Rocker and Wizard Rock ‘fan’ – wizard wrockers and fans are on an even playing field.”
From their love of Wrock music to discussions of Harry Potter literature, Wrockers young and old can bond and grow as individuals. These common interests “lead you to talk about so many different things.” According to Lena, Wrock is a “springboard that makes people a lot less intimidated to meet new people. Shy people in normal life become a lot less shy when they are surrounded by groups of wiz rock people.”
Kids and adults alike are welcomed openly into the family of Potter fandom. Events like “Wrockstock” and Azkatraz host hundreds of Potter-crazy families to a weekend of concerts and talks. Listeners range from 4-40 years old, all who flock to wiz rock events for entertainment and fellowship. Lena says, “people bring their babies, people bring their 2-year-olds and everybody just has so much fun!” The conferences feature Wrock Concerts, open panels of famous Wrockers and celebrities that are as Potter crazy as the Wrockers. These meetings are a platform for discussion about the books, movies, and future of the “wizarding” world. You could say it’s the “mother ship” of all Harry Potter lovers, just a huge family reunion with more than a few eccentric aunts and uncles.
“This family is unique, differing greatly from the community at Ithaca College,” Lena explains. “It’s a lot more accepting. You can go up to anyone at a Harry Potter event and say ‘Hi, I’m…’ and instantly they like you. At IC, they won’t immediately feel a sense of bestfriendom…If I’m having a problem, I turn to these friends that I’ve met in the wizard wrock community, and they turn to me with their issues.” She stresses that she leads two completely separate lives: one at school and with her family and the other with her Wrock family. “I can really be myself around other people that understand that part of me,” Lena said. This sense of openness and understanding is the most interesting and endearing aspect of the Wrock culture. This group of people, who only share one commonality – Harry Potter – managed to create a safe haven where they can share their interests and thrive off of each others’ enthusiasm.
An older Wrocker, Quinn Rossi, explained that the “Wizard Rock community is only a subdivision of the Harry Potter community as a whole. I think that that’s where you really see the family. The Harry Potter community combines everything – you have people from every walk of life, every age range, who do any little thing that can be merged into something that they really love. Any way you express yourself is completely okay.” He also added, “Everyone is lauded for just simply doing their best. It’s not about talent, it’s about passion.
His first Wizard Wrock experience was telling of this open attitude. “I went to a show alone and instantly made friends with someone who recognized me from another event,” Quinn explained. “He took me to a table of his buddies and we hit it off instantly. This is why this community is a family: it’s an incredibly inclusive group of people that truly accept each other.” Quinn went on to describe how the conferences and concerts are a supportive platform for new performing artists. “Yet another reason we’re a family,” he explained, is because all Wrockers “respect and support each other.”
The Wrock movement is spreading. More and more people are learning about this genre, participating in it’s growing culture and promoting its message of family. All are welcome. All are accepted. All are important. Isn’t that what family is all about? Lena is one of many individuals that have been helped and supported by the growing family of Wrockers, and she certainly won’t be the last. WROCK ON!
McKenzie Wall is a freshman integrated marketing communications. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.