Contributed by: Jay Erlich
We are living in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 global pandemic. As Canadians, we are working in essential services or self-isolating. Both situations carry with them enormous anxiety. I have been coping with this pandemic by using music to reduce adverse mental health symptoms. My life will actually be better after the pandemic than before, thanks to the daily inclusion of using music therapeutically in my life. My goal with this article is to share my experience with using music therapeutically, in hopes you may benefit and improve the quality of your life. Let me tell you what I mean.
A major stress during the pandemic is that it is hard for families to not spend physical time with each other. There is uncertainty about when some of us will get back to work. There is anxiety about going to a grocery store or pharmacy given the fear that you might get sick with Covid-19. Understandably, we all want the end of the pandemic to be like ripping a band-aid off, but it is the opposite. It seems to me that everyone I know is glued to the terrifying pandemic news stories. There seem to be many more negatives to talk about than positives.
For many people, self-isolation has been a slow time. However, this time does not have to be negative if you use it effectively. Since starting self-solation in March, I have spent my time implementing a healthy daily routine which consists of a regular balance of sleep, exercise, good nutrition, limited consumption of alcohol, and making time for hobbies, video or phone calls with family and friends. This routine took away much of the burden of self-isolation. Implementing routines likes these will keep your mind occupied, so the self-isolating does not seem as bad. I am hopeful that when the pandemic is over, I will have developed enhanced lifestyle patterns and balance. Key to this personal success might very well have been the importance of my hobby, creating music.
For almost 20 years now I have been studying, writing, and recording music on a daily basis. Some weekends I will work on my music projects for 5 or more hours per day. I feel lucky to have music to focus on during these times. I’ll admit it has been difficult to be creative and write new lyrics when my days are almost always the same routine.
I got lucky. An old professor of mine from a Peace Studies/History class, named Jeff Gunn, posted on Facebook that he was looking to take on new students for guitar. Jeff plays lead guitar in the band Emmanuel Jal https://www.emmanueljal.com/
. Jeff told me some of his greatest accomplishments in music were having played on the same show with the Dave Matthews Band and opening for Xavier Rudd in Australia while on Jal’s tour. These are two musical acts that I grew up listening to. I was sold on his offer of weekly lessons.
I am an aspiring singer/song writer despite growing up believing that music theory was somehow not important to know. I watched a documentary on CBC online about Gordon Lightfoot, and I realized that he understood music theory very well, which is why he is such a prolific song writer. That was enough for me. I realized that if I wanted to write music professionally, I needed to go back and relearn theory. I could already both play the guitar and sing, something that Jeff called a rare gift. I just did not understand the theory of why chords sounded good together.