music-health

The Greek lyrical poet Archilochus said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

This quote suggests that the ability to succeed is not based on chance, nor can someone expect to succeed based solely on his or her innate abilities. Success instead is the result of training in a focused manner, so that when faced with a critical situation, a reaction occurs without conscious thought—essentially, it has become an instinctual response born of dedicated practice.

The saying can also be interpreted in a broader fashion, reflecting one’s ability to change and to “push the envelope,” as great jazz musicians do. Basketball, my favorite sport, shares some similarities in approach. The combination of talent and training, with some scripted aspects of play and the freedom for spontaneous improvisation is the ultimate in team synergy. When played in this way, basketball is beautiful. The unscripted nature of the game is similar to the improvisational nature of jazz, in which the notes are often unknown in advance, and rely on the combination of thought (intelligence) and feeling response (heart).


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As many of you know, I have been a lifelong musician. This summer I’ve had the pleasure of playing music with several professional musicians in the Rogue Valley, namely, my good friend and drummer, David Bolen. Having joined the “I Have A Dream” band for a special performance celebrating African American musicians at the Craterian Theatre in early 2016 under the direction of singer-songwriter, Doug Warner, I was beyond impressed by the caliber of musicianship. We all wanted to continue playing together, so I decided to bring the group together for a summer benefit concert for the Mederi Foundation.


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Celebrating John Coltrane

In 1964, John Coltrane, often referred to as just “Trane,” revealed to the world his concept of spirituality in the form of what would soon be a world-renowned recording, “A Love Supreme.” Coltrane’s unique concept fused music and theology; he looked deep within himself, around himself, and to the heavens and the mystery of faith and religion.

Coltrane was on an unyielding quest for a closer relationship with God, and the manifestation of his quest was music virtually indescribable by the written word. I came across this essay, which speaks to the power of his music: “John Coltrane may be the only musician ever whose recordings would later be assigned the power of divination usually attributed to proto-jazz hymns and old time healers whose primal energy conjured spirits and laid souls bare.” (KARASLAMB, Revivalist Exclusive: Remembering John Coltrane On His 87th Birthday.)


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Remembering John Coltrane

John Coltrane (1926-1967)—saxophonist, composer, and iconic figure—is to me a saint. He has inspired me in my music and my life, and has meant so much to me that we named our son Coltrane. September 23rd is the anniversary of John Coltrane’s birth. In his honor, I want to share with you what has made him such an influential figure in my life.


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Why We Need Music

From the beginning of recorded history, music has played a significant role in our wellbeing. The ancients were well aware of the power of music: In Greek mythology, Apollo was revered as the god of both music and medicine, and the great philosopher Plato wrote, “Music is an art imbued with power to penetrate into the very depths of the soul.”

Music offers a direct way to tap into the innate knowledge that resides deep within our cells. It is through music that we experience and harmonize ourselves with the Divine, because music is capable of bridging heaven and earth, and our human mortal-self with our spiritual immortal-self. Simply put, music inspires us in a way that nothing else can. I am sure that everyone, at some point, has had the experience of music piercing through their being, effortlessly opening their heart and soul.


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How Music Heals

As a musician, I’m attuned to the transformative power of music. My father was a musician, and I grew up listening to classical and jazz compositions. I was intrigued by the complex rhythms and melodies of jazz, and was inspired to begin playing the bass guitar in my early teens. In my early twenties, I added another dimension of music to my life when I entered a Franciscan monastery and experienced the meditative chants of the monks. I always felt that I both lost and found myself in music, whether it was classical, jazz, or Gregorian chants.

As a researcher, I’m interested in understanding exactly how music affects the body. From the beginning of recorded history, sound and music have played a significant role in healing. Whether through the hypnotic drum rhythms of an African tribe or the sonorous chants of Tibetan monks, music pierces the soul and accesses the power of healing in a way unlike any other.

In the West, there’s a growing interest in music therapy. Studies show that music helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression; eases pain and muscle tension; lowers blood pressure; and improves immune function. People with cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, anxiety, and depression have all been shown to benefit from music therapy. For example, researchers at the November 2008 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions meeting in New Orleans presented a study showing that emotions aroused by joyful music have a beneficial effect on blood vessel function. Laughter and relaxation are also helpful, but music seems to be the strongest of “medicines” for the heart.


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