The Healing and Inspiring Power of Music

Last week I talked about giving back to the community by participating in or giving to charity events. I wasn’t sure about what to write about this week, but after last night’s show, I’ve been inspired. A year ago, we organized an event called Rise of the Valkyries. It was a showcase for some of the top female fronted local rock and metal bands in New England. It was such a hit we decided to do it again this year, however, we turned it into a charity event for the Rhode Island Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

This disease affects tens of thousands of women every year and by association, their families. Three out of the five members of my band have been affected. My mother died a little over two years ago; our lead guitarists wife’s best friend of 27 years died last year, she was only 42 years old; and our lead singer’s husband’s mother died in 1997.

My mom was never able to see me perform live because she was too sick, but she saw videos. I was only in the band a little over a month before she died. She was so happy for me because it had been a dream of mine since I was 14 to play on stage and she said I really looked like I was enjoying myself. Yes, I do.

I’m going to get personal and tell some back story so that the context of the show last night will make some sense as to its importance. I started messing around on guitar, borrowing them from friends, when I was around 14. At the age of 16 I decided I wanted to get more serious with my playing. My mom made me a deal; she would rent me a guitar and amp as long as I took lessons (three months) and after that would consider buying me a guitar and amp.

I took the lessons and wound up learning faster on my own by just listening to records and messing around on the fretboard. My mom realized I was serious after the lesson time was up and had me pick out a guitar and amp that met my needs. The guitar I chose had been hanging on the wall of the local store where I took lessons and had been calling to me. It was a 1984 Aria Pro II ZZ Deluxe. It had attitude and the tone to back it up. I paired the guitar up with a Peavey Backstage Plus. The combo served me well for starting my musical journey.

Fast forward to last Wednesday 2017. I rarely play this guitar. Out of all my guitars, it had never been played on stage. I recently changed the strings, so I pulled it out of its case, tuned it up and plugged in. I was amazed by the sound that came out of it, the weight on my body, and the feel. Even though it’s 34 years old, it’s a viable instrument that can be played and stand up with some of my best guitars.

I took it to band practice that night and everyone was blown away. It would be used for the upcoming event on Friday. As I practiced with it the couple of days before the show I got really sentimental. Here was a guitar that symbolized the dream of a 16-year-old kid and his mother who provided him with a gift that would last his entire life thus far.

The night of the show, I got up on stage between bands relating stories of our band members who had lost family to ovarian cancer. They were very well received. The one that was most heartfelt was the story I told about me, my mom, and the guitar. It was my first time speaking publicly about it and was difficult. However, through adversity we find amazing strength.

I pulled the guitar out of its case, got on stage, and absolutely tore it up. The band was really tight, the crowd pumping, and the release of the 16-year-old kid, now 49, was intense. When the set was over, I had so many emotions going through me, I had to walk around to let it all sink in. Even though I’ve played many shows since being in the band, this night was a life changing moment.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only who was changed. I had been talking with my lead guitarists wife’s brother. It turns out his wife was the person I had mentioned earlier in this article. He was a musician of many years, but since his wife’s death, had lost all inspiration. He came up to me as I was walking around and thanked me. He said he wasn’t going to come to the show, but did for some reason. The night had proven to be a healing experience for him. He told me how hearing me talk and seeing and hearing me and the band play had inspired him mentally and musically.

Although we didn’t have quite the turn out we had hoped, we still managed to make over $300 for the charity. A lot of people who had been coping with the loss of loved ones, had a healing experience among a family of musicians and fans, myself included.

-Scott Duncan - MU Columnist

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