Photo courtesy EPISD
Grammy Award-winning musician Zuill Bailey met virtually with Silva Health Magnet students and used the magical sounds of his cello to emphasize the healing power of music.
Bailey’s virtual presentation “Music is Medicine” gave students a personal glimpse into the philosophy and life of the renowned cellist who’s widened his performances beyond concert halls and theaters to include schools, hospitals, prisons, hospices and nursing homes.
“My life’s journey is through music,” said the ProMusica artistic director. “It’s cured me from anxiety and chaos still to this day and it’s brought such clarity to my family.”
From a young age, he and his parents noticed the impact of music on his psyche.
“My parents told me that music was the only thing that stopped me in my tracks, that made me smile, that made me disappear from the present,” he said. “Personally, I didn’t want that feeling to stop. It made me feel good. It made me vibrate, made all of the endorphins in my body stand up.”
He sees it in the eyes of his audience – no matter the venue – with every movement of his bow.
“We all know that the mind is an incredibly powerful tool,” Bailey said. “If you think positively, and do things that infuse us with forward momentum, it can cure. It can soothe.”
He saw how the music left him looking 50 pounds lighter with subtle smile. Explaining that the emotion evoked by the sound of the cello gave him a positive release.
“I’ve been in this prison for 27 years and I haven’t cried in 27 years and I can’t stop myself from crying right now,” the prisoner told him, still choked up trying to get the words out. “I want to know why your cello is doing this to me.”
Bailey credits the cello’s healing powers to its vibration and ability to mimic the sound of the human voice.
“I can tell a story with my cello in a way that human beings can grab on to because it sounds familiar,” Bailey said. “I know it has a healing aspect. It astonishes me.”
When he returns from his performances – especially those in non-traditional venues – reflects on how the music can be “an elixir of positivity.”
“It’s an unexplainable positive force that changes us in all times,” Bailey said. “It changes the emotional temperature of any given room.”
He saw first-hand the positive affect of music on his new born son. Frightened and emotional – he watched, but couldn’t hold his baby from the NICU.
“The only thing that crossed my mind on how to make an impact on my boy, my blood, was to play from my heart,” he said. “I got my cello and played from the glass. From that day forward in 2002, I recognized that not only is music transformative but 100 percent the ultimate medicine for a healthy life.”
The music had such an impact on his baby boy that at 9 or 10, he asked his dad if he could play the same piece. Bailey bought his son a cello and even during the conversation with the Silva students, he beamed with pride asking them if they could hear him playing in the other room.
“It makes me feel good,” his son told him, when asking to play the piece. “It makes me feel ok and I want to try to do that myself.”
He now sees his trips to the hospital to play for babies in the NICU differently.
“I look at the babies, but I also look at the parents,” he said. “I see how it changes how they look at their babies.”
Silva coordinator Denise Galvaz told the future health care professionals listening to consider incorporating music in their treatments along with traditional interventions.
“There’s something about music,” she said. “Studies show it reduces the heart rate and has calming effect. Music is so powerful and so healing.”