Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Music Therapy Unleashes Memories"

''Music Therapy Unleashes Memories"

So, early in our stay on Ft. Myers Beach this past February, Denise, the Hope Hospice social worker, visited with us and shared some of the possible services we could utilize during our stay. One that I hadn't experienced before was a music therapist. I mean, I've heard of it, even recommended it, and maybe even self-treated with it on occasion, but experienced it with a trained professional? Well, no.

So, with a little unneeded encouragement by Denise I agreed to "let" her come out and see where it went. After all, I listen to a lot of music, had been the recipient of its magical/mystical/marvelous movement in my being for years. Over the years I have expanded the styles of music that I enjoy or appreciate. Where once (high school) it was exclusively pop/rock, the unfolding decades have allowed the music snob/bias/limited layers to be peeled away resulting in pleasant and surprising exposure to jazz, classical, hymns, folk, spirituals, disco, hip-hop, punk rock, Gospel, Celtic, blues, barbershop, praise, contemporary Christian, accappela, etc. (Admittedly, I allow more space on my internal karaoke machine for some types more than others, but I don't want to get into that in this post.)

Well, when Melissa, Hope's music therapist, arrived the first time with her folk guitar and her iPad she asked me what my favorite kind of music was - you know, what I'd like for her to play, I, of course said "I like about anything but I still most appreciate classic rock and roll, folk music and pop music from the late 60's." Then she smiled. I thought that was interesting so I observed: "that's what everybody says, right?"

"No, she said, most of the people I share with want 40's music. Classic rock and folk are probably my favorites as well and I don't get to play them much. So, what do you want to hear? Who are some of your favorite artists or songs." And so, I mentioned The Beach Boys, John Denver, Johnny Mathis, The Beatles, The Oakridge Boys, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Mommas and the Pappas, The Four Seasons, etc.

She started with one that she likes to sing for everyone and then came Little Deuce Coup, If I Had a Hammer, California Dreamin, She Loves You, and then we embarked on a little conversation about where enjoyment of that music came from - what memories it allowed to surface - why the tears - what I felt when I heard that music. I grinned and said "therapy time." She smiled as if to imply, "you know too much." But we talked about high school band, playing a clarinet, the friendships made, church and school choir .... and about one of the best memories of my high school days - being a  member of a high school rock band, a combo, The Cimbles!

Then I had to stop talking - loss of energy and surfacing of emotion. I just let her sing for awhile as I remembered Mike "Stack" Stackhouse (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Paul (Breasty) Quint (vocals, guitar, trumpet), "Butch" Gibson (vocals, guitar), Jim "Mouse" Heringhaus (drums), Bill "Krink" Kreinbrink (bass), Denny "Bones" Frey (trumpet), Bill Glassner (trombone), and me "Toots" (clarinet and later on sax). (My apologies if I forgot someone. I'm sure some of them will read this and maybe post some corrections.)

The songs flooded my mind and heart: "Lonely Bull", "Walk, Don't Run '64'" (I believe this one included a drum solo by Mouse), "Our Day Will Come", California Girls", "When I Fall In Love", "Stranger on the Shore", "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", "Chug-a-lug", "Surfin' U.S.A.", "Da Doo Ron, Ron", "Fun, Fun, Fun", "Help Me, Rhonda", "I Saw Her Standing There", and on and on.

But it wasn't just the music I was remembering those afternoons Melissa played for me - it was the camaraderie - the gigs - the friendships - the discussions - the arguments - the friends who encouraged us and followed us - a late night drive between Findlay and the Grove Skating Rink (don't ask!) - dances in school gyms - political gatherings that tested our musicianship - the guys who've gone on and made a career with their music - the choosing the last song of the evening or before a break so we could dance with our girlfriends - I seem to remember getting stuck playing "Stranger on the Shore" a lot when everyone else wanted to get something to drink or eat or kiss a little! No hard feelings or anything though!

Music and memories - the stuff of therapy and the healing of one's spirit. Thanks, red sweater brothers. You were one of the best experiences of community I had in my life and I treasure the memories as I continue to listen to music as the healing agent of my soul it continues to be while dealing with the destruction of my physical body that ALS presents!

Music is on my mind this week as we prepare to kick-off the Bill's Backers fundraising efforts with a Folk Music Sing-a-Long this weekend in Columbus.

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