A Worthy Question

As a physician, patients frequently asked me questions about my life, including those about why I do what I do. Their interest is often a barometer indicating they’re closer to recovery. Their focus begins to turn outward instead of inward. Recently, one of the questions I received gave me pause (and cause) for introspection.

Beyond Faith

One afternoon, a young trauma victim inquired, “Other than your faith, what things in life have been motivators, or helped to shape your integrity?” His profundity forced a sudden reprieve. Following the brief pause, the first thought, and my reply, was, “Music, for one.”

Shaping Integrity—an Obvious Motivator

Naturally, my patients inquisition was not satiated with a one-word answer. As I gave it further thought, I realized there were at least five ways (if not more) that music, and my love for it, has benefited me throughout life.

A Map

Music remains a dynamic and chronological map of my life marking significant events of the past, present, and future. It’s a timeline of where I’ve been, am, or may be going, and with whom. With few exceptions, when I hear a song or artist, I can generally pinpoint the first time and place the experience occurred. For example, “Layla” (Eric Clapton, Derek and the Dominoes, 1970) always takes me back to cruising with my pal “Tweeter” when I was in high school.

Another eternally memorable song will always be “You’ll Be in My Heart” (Phil Collins, 1999). It’s also a favorite of my sons and instantly brings to mind dancing in our living room with all three of them. They were small enough to bundle and I would hold them together in my arms, spinning.

Creative Outlet 1497063861681

God blessed me, along with my three sons, with a natural ear for music. In fact, my boys are the pop band Before You Exit http://beforeyouexit.com and have far surpassed my meager talents. However, growing up, formal music lessons and experimentation introduced me to the violin, trumpet, piano, drums, and guitar. As a teen and even in medical school I enjoyed playing in bands and always loved singing in the school chorus or theater. Another favorite creative outlet comes through writing, including poetry and song lyrics. But again, my son’s talents have far succeeded my own as they write all of their own music and lyrics. It’s clearly evident how musical creativity spreads to other facets of life as it has into the lives of my kids.

Enhancing the Quality of Past-times clef-799256_1920

There are few, if any, means better for enhancing free time than listening to music. One of its greatest qualities is its ability to inspire the soul to feel emotions at their deepest levels. With any given piece, the listener can be carried from deep sadness to overwhelming joy.

These days digital streaming of music on sites like Spotify make listening to favorite artists effortless. Tunes of any genre from classical to rock are now at the listener’s fingertips.

Unfortunately for artists, the sale of music is significantly less lucrative. On the other hand, artists are able to generate significant revenue through touring. And nothing supersedes the auditory and visual joys of seeing a live performance.

I’ll never forget my first stadium concerts seeing Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep, Bob Seeger, and Peter Frampton – or Phil Collins from just in front of the stage. To date, there are very few major acts that I haven’t seen live at least once. But they all fall short of the joy I feel from seeing my sons perform in Before You Exit.

Motivator For Change

One of the more subtle benefits of music is the way it can initiate directional changes in the course of life. It can also be a distraction and used positively for things like pain inhibition. Depicting certain themes, often particular songs can commemorate specific events, or serve to inspire new goals or ambitions.

Conversely, particular songs can be the ideal energizers boosting or inspiring one through a difficult trial or life challenge. Thereafter, that same song can be an instant infusion of motivating strength empowering its listener to a higher plane.

I’ll never forget, during the 70’s and 80’s the way WMMS radio station (FM 101.1 Cleveland) would play Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” at 6 PM every Friday night. It was a memorable kickoff to every weekend in northern Ohio for years. Historically the song has become an anthem that celebrates the highly emotional workingman’s strive to survive the world and its compressive forces.

So many songs timelessly and creatively depict significant emotional changes in life. As just one example, I’m forever inspired by John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” (2006). It so colorfully illustrates the painful life continuum and the priceless emotions that pass from son to son. Its melody beautifully characterizes the heartfelt melancholy of life from the inevitable passage of time. Words fail me when attempting to describe the emotive sentiments that envelop me when hearing my sons cover the song.

Invigorating Relationships, with God and Others

Finally one of music’s greatest benefits is the way it energizes my spiritual relationship with God. Specific worship songs become prayers of praise. They also magnify  the positive emotions surrounding spirituality and its affirmations. Additionally, music provides a symbolic expression reminding me of the true virtues expressed through many special relationships with friends and others. Certain songs become living auditory scrapbooks inciting glances through eternally open windows to the past, present, and future.

How has music affected your life? Comments

5 thoughts on “5 Ways Anyone Can Benefit From Music”

  1. So very poignant. I agree that music can share our life’s totality through melodies and lyrics – memories, glimpses into the highest highs and the lowest lows (and everywhere in between) both personally and extending into our relationships. Vividly helping us travel through time either forwards or backwards.

    Music was one of the healthy escapes I found growing up. It nurtured me when no one or nothing else would or could. Spending hours upon hours teaching myself to play guitar lead eventually to song writing & music composition followed by performances in small venues and at home. It provided a freedom, a way of expression, an escape and solace. It brought be closer to God because I believed it was He who would awaken me in the night with a melody or words to a song. His guidance was evident and comforting. I never felt the need to necessarily share my music- although I did share it on a small scale. It was something for me; a way for me to cope and understand and express the inexpressible.

    The relationships that were forged in my teenage years with other musicians are still important in my life today. I know the bond that music creates. Camaraderie. A sense of belonging that so many of us need all throughout life. The friends that we make through music are special and lasting.

    I see the magic that music has created between myself and my daughter. I see how she and her friends bond and enjoy music together. Many times over the last few years at Before You Exit shows, as a matter of fact. Your sons have reached through generations with their music and their characters. Lauren and I listen to their music together and remember good times at their concerts, private shows and M&Gs.

    Today, my wish is for my daughter to believe in her musical dream. I pray for her and all aspiring artists to enjoy the process. The process is the journey that makes us who we are in the moment and in the end.



    1. Betsy:
      Thank you so much for your lovely, “poignant”, and inspirational comments on my most recent blog post.
      It’s obvious that you’re a creative writer and I imagine that I’d enjoy your work. Don’t let life activities preclude you from sharing your gift; you have a natural talent.
      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  2. Juliana:
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for following my blog as well as BYE. I’m glad your family is cancer free; that’s great news to celebrate with music!

  3. I heard your interview from Cleveland, on Janet Parshall today& decided to stop by. I trained at Metrohealth 1984-1987, but did not do any surgical rotations.
    The highest form of praise is singing to G-d
    It doesn’t have to be perfect, just release light into the world! A peak experience of life was learning how to chant the Torah- it took me to a state in which I experienced the Torah was chanting me! Our cantor told me her back pain disappeared while I was singing
    This lead to harp & voice lessons- am still exploring how to turn that into more public service- pray for me! – EtEl

    1. Dr. Mark McDonough MD PT

      Thank you (your name here) for the nice comments. Hope your training there was helpful.
      Blessings, Phoenixdoc

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