The Healing Power of Music
A story of of how music came back into my life for good
When I was about 4 years old or so (I don’t actually remember this, but this is how the story goes apparently) — I was sitting around playing with some toys on the floor and my aunt decided to put some of those giant, old school headphones around my ears so that I could listen to classical music for the first time. I want to say it was something like Beethoven’s 5th to give this story a little cliche, but she’s been gone for a while and will be one of those things I will always wonder about.
Regardless, my first experience with classical music magical.
As soon as she put those headphones on I stopped everything I was doing and stared blankly out into the Universe, mystified by what was going on between my ears. Again, I don’t remember much about the exact experience, but I do remember those headphones as a kid. They were huge, and their soft cushions sealed your ears in completely for the musical ride ahead like the seat bars on a roller coaster.
I never got a chance to thank my aunt for her early contribution to my musical journey — she passed away when I was still an ungrateful teenager — and it took several years after that until I finally started to “get it” and look back at people in my life and truly see their positive impact. If only we could turn back time every now and then, right?
Thanks to my loving aunt I experienced an early immersion in classical music that set up my life path to releasing my first piano album of original compositions almost 30 years later. Music has healed me in many ways, and I believe that her decision to put those headphones on was a pivotal point that created my life path today.
She had no obligation (or logical reason) to share her classical music with a toddler — she could have just been doing her thing around the house and ignored me like any other adult would have. Yet, because of her early act of love as well as the support of my parents later on when we moved to the States — I started taking piano lessons and composing my first pieces of music around the age of 9.
By the time I was in high school and college I was in a band with my best friends playing and recording music and it had become a huge part of my life and identity.
My aunt healed my spirit at a young age by opening it to the creative power of music.
Something clicked for me when she put those headphones on, and it took me many years and experiences later to understand and articulate it, as well as to discover its true purpose in my life as a medium of spreading the same healing that I received as a toddler.
None of this, though, would have much story value without some complications. In college I started ballroom dancing and, as all of us in the band began to pursue our individual life paths it seemed that the once budding flower of music that had flourished between us began to wilt and disappear.
Some of us got married, started businesses or began competing and trying to make it as a dance teacher.
Looking back on it, I am surprised at how something so significant and rewarding could be tossed under the rug so quietly — yet it’s the case with many people’s passions. How quickly we bury or let go of things that are truly important to us en lieu of more reasonable situations.
In my case, I was lucky that I traded one passion for another and they (somewhat) intersected. Regardless, music and piano took a back seat in my life for over a decade from that point until one day in the spring of 2017 when I found myself eating at my parents house and with a little extra time to burn.
It was the usual Sunday afternoon, and after eating some great food I went in the den and played a bit on our Yamaha P22 Oak stand-up piano. This was par for the course on Sundays — go eat, fool around on the piano and half-ass remember a few pieces I composed when I was younger and then head back home after getting a little reminder of the good old days of jamming out.
This time was a little different, though. I started to really get into it — to really play again. Something somewhere deep got a little spark and it was as if the years of not practicing were suddenly overwritten by inspiration.
“What am I doing with my life?” I thought, realizing that I had ignored a huge part of my life and happiness all these years.
Something snapped in me that day and I was motivated for action. I hadn’t played and written music for over a decade and my excuse was always that I was just too busy. How could I have given up on music, on my skill and passion? It was one of the most rewarding ways to create and bond with my friends — and I had somehow forgotten about it with everything else going on in my life.
I rushed home and went on Amazon immediately to buy two microphone stands, a mixer and some good mics to start recording. Life only moves forward, and the things you don’t do today will end up being the regrets of tomorrow.
I missed playing music, and “missed” was an understatement. Music made me feel alive — I was on top of the world whenever I played. Free to be myself, free to express every range of emotion, to unleash my creative power into the physical world and create something beautiful through sound.
It was a healing experience every time — and it was time to bring it back into my life.
In the next week I paid for my piano to get tuned and moved into my condo, creating a mini-recording studio in the second bedroom and the beginnings of what would eventually be a life living my passions.
All you need to do to find yourself and your passion is take action on what you want in the present moment and the path will reveal itself organically. Sometimes we have a clear picture of the future, sometimes that picture becomes clearer as we walk. Paths can come in all shapes, sizes and directions — but they all must be walked in the end.
As soon as I started taking action on what was important to me, things began to open up exponentially. That beautiful flower that was once abloom got its vibrancy back and in ways that I couldn’t even have imagined when I was younger.
Sometimes taking a break from something — even if it’s a 10 year break — can do well for its overall direction and purpose in your life.
Over the course of the last year I played furiously, writing and posting my pieces to YouTube for people to listen and enjoy. It was as if I had never stopped playing the piano — in a few months I had dozens of pieces published and my creativity was on fire.
As more of my friends and clients began to listen to my music I got rewarding feedback that started to guide me in a particular direction with what I played. Many of them said my music made them think, relax or use their imagination. For some it was even a good sleep aid, a concentration booster or a good way to relieve stress from a hard day at work.
I began realizing that my music wasn’t just for me — it could heal and help others in a meaningful way.
As the year passed and I saturated my channel with pieces it was time to get to the “organizational” aspect of the creative cycle. I felt that I needed to trim all of the ideas into a leaner playlist that I could memorize and showcase in the future because I missed playing live.
At this time I also wanted to apply myself in more contributory outlets and, with a little research, two opportunities presented themselves that would guide and inspire the completion of the project I am celebrating today.
Within a year after I started playing again, I began using my music and skills in a more healing direction — creating a music class at Florence Crittentonfor at-risk girls and volunteering at the Mayo Cancer Clinic in Phoenix as a regular piano player on Tuesdays for the patients and staff.
These experiences were very meaningful for me, and playing the Steinway Model L at the Mayo has become an honor and a tradition in my daily life today. The many transformational stories that have come with it have made this new direction of music so much more purposeful and clear, and one story in particular comes to mind that I want to share with you because it touched me and reminded me of my own.
One day as I was toward the end of my set, an elderly lady approached me and I could tell she was touched by the music I was playing. She thanked me, and the next thing I knew we were going through her life story and how she had a beautiful piano in her house but had shied away from playing it because certain events in her life that had made her give up on it.
I told her that I could relate, and that this was a sign from the Universe that she needed to start playing again — it was never too late to learn anything in my book.
You are only as old as you believe, and life is too short to give up on something that you want to do.
After a few more interchanges, she thanked me again and said maybe it was indeed time to try to learn piano — after all she had a client in her business that she knew for years now who was a very successful piano teacher. “There you go!” I said, “…no excuses now.” — the message was obvious.
The lady and I parted ways, and I could see that she got a little teary eyed.
I played another piece or two and then finished my set. That lady needed to be healed by music, I thought on the way to the car. I am not insinuating any special powers on my part, but I do believe that in that moment I was a vehicle for this person’s healing because there was a particular part of her life she had neglected and the experience of me playing the piano and talking with her facilitated a transformation in her spirit that opened up action that was not there before.
Music started it, conversation actualized it — and in that microcosm of an experience I really got how healing music can be.
I thought about music in my life and how many transformative experiences I had had because of it. From that first time my aunt put those headphones on, through playing and composing music as a teenager and young adult, to learning to dance and do shows to different kinds of music expressing my story and emotions, to going to festivals and huge experiences, to now playing again and creating that experience for others — music had played a vital role in my life as a way to let go, express, become vulnerable, visualize the future and what I want, meditate, empower myself and, ultimately, heal.
It was a channel for healing, a medium for change and meaningful experience.
Zoom forward through a few months of practice, organizing myself, playing (and a little frustration) and my set at the Mayo turned into an album idea that integrated both my new stuff as well as pieces that I had composed when I was very young.
My teenage dream of having my own piano album had become a reality again.
The break of 10 years had given me a repose for other things to happen as well as the ability to re-discover and re-create a meaningful direction with something very important in my life. These pieces represented deep emotion, my very spirit, converted into sound. I decided to paint them with ambient noises of nature so that the mood and experience would be complete.
I called it, Musical Thoughts: A Journey Through Improvisation.
For me healing is not some woo-woo thing but it is the completion of something. A stomach is healed when it is full, when it’s purpose as a container for food as been fulfilled. When that lady had “filled” herself with the possibility of music being alive in her life again, she experienced healing. When a toddler listens to music and it speaks to the timeless, all-knowing part of his or her spirit, it is a healing.
We are all healers, and we all need healing.
Music is the universal medium of information that we communicate our most profound experiences and emotions. It encodes these things in a way that language and meaning cannot, and sharing our music with others is one of the most primal and valuable experiences we can create.
Today I am happy to share the Healing Power of Music with you through the completion of my first piano album, Musical Thoughts: A Journey Through Improvisation.
Listen here to a podcast version of this story along with samples from the album. Enjoy!