IT’S HERE!!! Our very first Artist of the Month post. (And there was much rejoicing.) This week, our honored guest artist is the gifted singer/songwriter, Erin Elisabeth Aubrey, who found herself following music to a different sort of stage. I could tell you I knew Erin in college and that we were totes in music classes together… But I shan’t wax nostalgic. Although, should you desire to see and hear the album for which I designed her album art several years ago, click here…
Here’s her story:
I was singing while staring at the inside of a stomach. Blood, and guts and exactly what you’d imagine the contents of a stomach to look like.
I told myself not to look up, to keep my eyes on the guitar strings. But curiosity got the best of me and I looked. It didn’t gross me out- it was actually breathtaking and invigorating to see the inside of the human body.
In this breathless moment, I thought about how I got here.
I used to sing on a stage, under bright lights, staring out at a room full of people wondering what they thought.
Now, I’m staring out at a room full of doctors who called me in to help with pain management. Now, the only opinion that matters to me comes from Justin, the 16 year-old boy on the table. The victim of a drive by shooting. He wasn’t in a gang or anything, just in the wrong place at the wrong time…
I pictured the moments when I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Never were the consequences this bad. But now, maybe for the first time, everything felt right- that exhilaration you get when you are finally doing the very thing you were created to do. I was created to be a music therapist- to use music to help sick children manage their pain and anxiety.
If you have never seen a music therapy session, take a moment to click the pic and watch this story WGN did on my work at Lurie Children’s Hospital in downtown Chicago.
On this quest to find my true purpose, I experienced a major paradigm shift regarding my ideas about the arts, beauty, and God. It is my hope that you can take some of these nuggets and apply them to your own life!
1. Art is necessary for survival.
Ok, I know, we don’t eat or drink or breathe art. Would it be more accurate if I said, “art is necessary for our sanity?”
Just try to picture it: a day without music. You go into a coffee shop or a store- no music playing in the background. You get in your car- complete silence for your entire drive. You workout to silence, you clean your house in silence, you get ready in silence…
We would all lose our minds. So many moments in life require a soundtrack.
Jill Woelfle, a doctoral candidate in Washington, recently surveyed over 200 young people who are homeless in Seattle and Vancouver.
“Nearly all of the young people found ways to listen to music daily- even while they couldn’t meet basic needs like food and shelter.”
Whether we realize it or not, art is such a vital component of our daily lives.. our society.. our rituals… our spirituality… our connection to one another…our expression…our past… our coping…our legacy… our identities.
“I think there’s no question that art is as much a part of our human nature as eating, breathing, sleeping, procreation, communication, etc. There is no time in history that people did not make art or perform art. It’s just how we are. The issue becomes not if art is necessary, but how much we choose to nurture and support what is innate in us.”
How much do we choose to nurture and support the creativity God has given each of us? This leads me to the next lesson I learned:
2. Everyone can benefit from creating and receiving art
Somehow, our society has become extremely judgemental when it comes to the arts. When we hear someone singing in public, we immediately become mini Simon Cowels.
We criticize other people’s art and we criticize our own! But in other cultures, groups of people sing in public and they don’t judge each other’s voices. They sing for the pure joy of music. Not in America. NO WAY JOSE. You can’t miss a note or a word in this country. We will rip you to pieces for it. We have more than one TV show based on people performing their art and judges scoring it, making fun of it, and determining whether or not it’s worth something.
We become scared to create something unless:
– People praise us for it
– It makes us money
– It helps us achieve or accomplish something
This is why I love working with children. They aren’t afraid to sing at the top of their lungs. They aren’t self-conscious because they haven’t encountered the harshness of our society. They aren’t afraid of what you’ll say about their art when they stick their hand in five colors of paint and smear it on a page. They don’t feel guilty for making art instead of doing the dishes. They do it because it feels good to create something. They do it to express the feelings they have inside.
Why can’t we be more like that as adults?
For years, I beat myself up and cussed myself out for messing up a few notes or singing flat during a concert. I’m finally getting to the point where I can perform
Regardless of whether people praise it or not
Regardless of whether or not it makes me money (usually does not ☺)
Regardless of whether or not it helps me accomplish something.
THIS HAS BEEN THE MOST LIBERATING PART OF MY JOURNEY!
I sing for the pure joy of singing. (Did you know singing actually releases endorphins in our brain?) I do it because there are people lying in hospital beds who would give anything to be out performing right now. I do it because maybe it’ll bring someone peace or enjoyment. I do it because I love it and it’s fun! And as Haylie often quotes on this blog: it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful…
Oh and music, yes that’s my forte (<musicians-see what I did there?). Art as in drawing, painting, coloring etc, not so much. But doing it makes me feel good! So I started making art this year! At first, it felt wrong. Why am I making something that I’ll never hang up in my house? That no one would ever want to buy from me? That no one on God’s green earth would ever praise as “good art.” Am I wasting my time???!??! Stick to what you know Erin!
But in order to be my best when caring for others, I need to care for myself. I need to process my own emotions and experiences. I need to express myself in creative ways.
So I color in one of those fabulous coloring books made for adults!
I cut words out of magazines and make poetry!
“As the world turns, and maybe tilts. Shape life. Love among the friends and foes. Up close. Smile in seconds. Glimpse the world the artist lived in: not a desert but a greener place, where rain sometimes fell. The perfect pairing.
There are so many reasons to love.”
I listen to music and use chalk to draw the images that come into my head!
A kindergardner could’ve probably made these 😀 But I share them to encourage you to subscribe to the notion of “ars gratia artis,” or “art for art’s sake.” Art feeds my soul. It comforts me. It allows me to stop and think and breathe for a few minutes of my crazy day. It gives me clarity.
Plus- research shows that music reduces a hormone called cortisol that our bodies produce in response to stress. You know, the one that will weaken our immune systems, our metabolism, and our mental functioning if we have too much of it. So by listening to music and creating art, I am actually making my body and mind healthier! Which leads me to my last lesson:
3. Art heals us
I truly believe that God uses art to heal us. In the hospital, I work with people on their darkest days as they live through their worst nightmares. When you step into a room and someone is holding their dying child, words feel so weak and useless.
But then I help them write a song about their child. About their love that will never die. And we sing it together.
And they contact me later on and tell me how much it helped. That it was a way for them to find beauty in suffering. That they caught a little glimpse of peace.
I am humbled to have played a part in it, but I know it was not me who did the healing. Music contains God’s healing power, and I have watched it provide comfort time and time again. When words fail, music steps up to the plate. I am honored to be the set of lungs, and vocal chords, and hands that are able to produce the sound. I cannot think of a better way to use my gift.
And whether the pain we have is big or small, we experience disappointment on this side of Heaven. Loss. Heartache. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.
And we are left here making sense of it.
So forget what people think. Don’t fret about “wasting time.” Write music or listen to it. Go to a museum or throw some paint on a canvas. Hang up some photography or take pictures of your own. Nurture and support the artistic part of who you are.
When things get ugly, look around at the beauty in this world. Soak it in. Then create something that will add to it.
Growing up in the mountains of East Tennessee instilled a love of beauty in singer/songwriter Erin Elisabeth Aubrey. After performing in Nashville for three years, she began the masters of music therapy program at the University of Kentucky. She has released three albums and is excited to be licensing her music in TV and film. Erin is also in the process of opening a music therapy private practice in her hometown.
P.S. I linked up at the House of Hipsters linky party here!