Inspirations for the Artist
What inspires you? Artists, we invite you to contribute your favourite quotations – firstname.lastname@example.org
Iraq War Veteran Finds Healing In Singing
By Alison St John, January 5th, 2010 for KPBS.org
Excerpt from the article:
“Thousands of young veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan are fighting a private war of their own as they struggle to deal with the aftereffects of combat. Christian Ellis, a former Marine undergoing therapy for PTSD, has discovered an unexpected source of healing — singing.
Ellis had at least one narrow escape from an IED. [He] was physically injured in that blast. But the damage he’s dealing with now manifested more than a year after he returned from combat. He suffers from recurring flashbacks that happen anytime — when he’s watching TV, reading a book, sitting in a restaurant or driving. Sometimes smells of burning trigger it.
“Driving, smelling it — it’s like a movie just flashes across my eyes,” Ellis says. “I don’t even realize it until I’m swerving. My temperature raises, my heart increases, I’m sweating and my body’s reacting to it.” Ellis was discharged more than a year ago and is on full disability with a diagnosis of PTSD.
But then Ellis rediscovered something he loved before he went to war, something that brought him a new sense of hope: singing.
“I started in elementary school,” he says, “because my mom was a big influence. She would sing and I would sing in competitions in high school. Then I sang in college and then after college I was like, ‘alright, what now?’ So I joined the Marine Corps.”
His coach, Enrique Tolar is impressed with his progress in the past few months.
“He came here barely able to sing,” Tolar says. “He could just barely phonate and make a sound. So the progress that he’s made has been astounding to me.”
They move from scales to songs — songs that work on his voice and on his feelings.
“I am on my way, I can go the distance, I don’t care how far, somehow I’ll be strong,” Ellis sings, filling the small room with his voice.
Ellis knows this is about more than becoming a good performer, it’s about finding a dream again, a reason to live.
Ellis says the singing is helping. “It used to be I would never leave my place, I wouldn’t be able to sleep for three to four days at a time. Now I can sleep for three or four hours at a time, so I’m making progress, small steps, and singing helps.”
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes”
– Marcel Proust
Karl Paulnack – Music Division Boston Conservatory
Excerpt from his address:
“What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:
If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.
You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.
Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”