Did you know that I’m a seminarian? That one usually takes a few people by surprise. It’s true; I’ll start my senior year at San Francisco Theological Seminary next fall. So this past year I spent working as an intern at a homeless agency called Welcome. It’s one of the reasons I have the confidence to take my music to the street with this busking thing. Anyway, one of my responsibilities during my internship was to provide some music therapy for our clients (we called them guests.) For this blog entry I’m sharing with you the first part of one of my papers that I wrote as a reflection on this part of my musical journey.
Internship Reflection Paper 1. 9/15/09
Habit/Skill: Music Therapy
My first four months with WELCOME have already had a drastic influence on my musicality. In this paper I hope to explain how my understanding of music is changing and connect that with the events that have been catalysts for my musical re-evaluations. I also hope to reflect theologically on these events in a logical if not unorthodox fashion. This paper begins from the presupposition that significant growth is spurred by a deep sense of humility.
There is a regular guest (we call all of our guests “guests”) whom I’ll refer to as Dee. Dee has been around WELCOME for almost as long as it has existed. He is a bona fide street person and also a fairly accomplished musician. He plays the piano with a fervor and molds blues out of his guitar as well as anyone else I’ve heard. His voice in song is raspy and soulful, as if he’s lived the life of someone that refuses to compromise. To go along with all of this, he his also certifiably insane. His psychosis has manifested itself before me a few different times, and while it is not entirely relevant to this paper, it is a significant part of his identity (by his choosing or not) and thus has affected me.
My first time meeting Dee was shortly after I started at WELCOME. He was sitting in our fellowship hall talking with another one of our guests, noodling aimlessly on the guitar when Megan (my boss) introduced me, immediately informing him that I was a musician as well. Dee handed over the guitar and asked me to play a little. I happily obliged. I spurted out one of my songs and as I was playing he broke into a tune for it. He didn’t even need to hear the chord progression all the way through before he started singing along in full voice, simply making up the lyrics as he went. When I finished he complimented me on my playing and withdrew into unintelligible murmuring.
I’ve gotten to know Dee quite a bit better since that initial meeting. He always surprises me. The thing that attracts me to him the most is his refusal to compromise, particularly when it comes to his music. Every time I hear him talking about music he is saying one thing or another about the “feeling” in music. His most basic point being that if you don’t feel the music, then you don’t play or sing it.
Having the prerequisite of “feeling” before sound is created is not something that I had thoroughly considered before. In the past, I’ve usually jumped into the song without having the need to feel anything out before hand. While that way of making music worked fine for me in those days, once I was made aware of what I was neglecting, it has made it difficult for me to totally immerse myself in a song if I don’t “feel” it first. It was an incredibly humbling experience when I made this realization, with much thanks to Dee.