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March 3, 2023

It’s Not What You Get Out of the Music…

It’s Not What You Get Out of the Music, but What the Music Gets Out of You!

A number of years ago, a friend asked me if I would join him on a walk to Crater Lake. This is always a beautiful place to see scenery and hang out. Crater Lake is right at the base of Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed locations. The mountain literally rises up from the shores of the lake.

With Crater Lake, there is always the possibility of communing with nature and the wonderful creatures that live there. Camp robbers are jays that will eat French fries or other food right out of your hand — or off your plate if you’re not paying attention. It is a wonderful experience watching them fly towards you and land on your hand to help themselves to a fry.

There is also the possibility of seeing moose at Crater Lake. I have seen moose before but never in person at the lake, just seen photos from other folks.

My friend had a guitar that he wanted to photograph me playing. Crater Lake was the backdrop he wanted for the photo. As we walked the trail through the Aspens and Evergreens, he kept apologizing for the quality of his guitar. He would say that this guitar is nowhere near as nice as my guitars.

When we arrived at the lake, the water level was down a little and there were rocks and stumps along the shore.

There are trails that continue on beyond the lake, either towards Maroon Bells or towards Crested Butte, a wonderful quirky town 11 miles away as the crow flies. Driving is 200 miles and 4 hours.

So my friend and I found a cool stump and stood it on its end. It made for a great guitar pickin’ stool. I started doodling on his guitar, mostly playing instrumentals. Then, of course, I had to play Rocky Mountain High. It is a powerful feeling singing that iconic song out in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Every word has a deeper meaning as you look at the scenery surrounding you in real time, not just your imagination as you sing it on a concert stage.

As I played, he asked how I got that tone out of his guitar? I responded that it’s not what you get out of the guitar, it’s what the guitar gets out of you. I liked the sound of that phrase. He liked it so much that he asked me to write it on the back of his guitar as a reminder to himself regarding his own playing of his guitar.

The more I thought about it, the more I saw deeper meaning into the therapy work that Music Therapy of the Rockies aspires to achieve with the veterans and survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking that we work with.

To me, it is an active collaboration with the music, so that you are one with the properties of music emotionally and creatively, not just a listening recipient. Having music be a purposeful aspect. What does music inspire and motivate you to do? I would venture that it is more than just listening. It is breathing to the beat, weeping to the harmonic structure, and feeling your heartbeat match the rhythm.

It’s not what you get out of the music, but what the music gets out of you.


Written by Mack Bailey, Founder of Music Therapy of the Rockies

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