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Jazz Artist Applies Music to Heal the Body and Mind

September 22, 2008

By Angela Haupt

Jazzman Stanley Jordan’s intuition that music could be a healing force traces back to his teen years. He says he was sick with the flu and spent an entire day surrounded by song — and recovered nearly instantly.

Now, Jordan, 49, is taking his music talents beyond entertainment and into the realm of healing, inspiration and self-esteem.

“In five to 10 years, music therapy is going to be a household term,” he said during a recent telephone interview from the Sheraton Moriah Tel Aviv Hotel, where he was staying during an Israeli concert tour. “I say that because it’s so holistic and versatile. It addresses every part of the body in some way or another.”

In April, Jordan released State of Nature, a 14-track album that illustrates the relationship between humans and nature.

He said he had spent time vacationing and connecting with the Earth, which led him to two questions: How can we knowingly destroy the environment and not change our behavior? And what changes can we make to become more in harmony with the environment?

“I used music to answer those questions and express the insight I found,” Jordan said. “It’s an applied philosophy. And I hope that when people listen to these songs, they’ll decide to become more active.”

Music is a four-dimensional healing force, he said: It works physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He points to Relaxing Music for Difficult Situations, I, which he released in 2003.

“I wrote this because I had a dentist appointment, and I wanted something relaxing,” he said. “But it turned out to be very melancholy music. I realized that meant I was disappointed in myself, because I hadn’t been taking good enough care of my health.”

Jordan, a three-time Grammy Award nominee, burst onto the jazz scene in 1985 with Magic Touch, which sold more than 400,000 copies worldwide. He has since released more than 10 albums.

Music therapy describes the clinical use of musical interventions, said Barbara Else of the American Music Therapy Association. Popular methods include playing an instrument, singing, songwriting and lyric discussion. Among those who can benefit: people with mental, developmental and learning disabilities, long-term illnesses, substance abuse problems or brain injuries, and mothers who are in labor.

Jordan is completing a graduate program in music therapy at Arizona State University. There, he is exploring how music can enhance a person’s self-esteem and social relationships.

“He’s brilliant,” said Barbara Crowe, director of ASU’s music therapy program. “He is a fabulous, ferocious reader, and he has kept his interest in music therapy and healing. He went on his own quest, really got into the literature and educated himself.”

As part of his music therapy initiative, Jordan regularly performs at hospitals and hospices.

“I look at it as sharing gifts,” he said. “A woman will start telling us when she heard that song before, or she’ll start rocking back and forth, remembering the way she danced. You see people come to life in ways they haven’t in a long time.”

In April, Jordan teamed with LIFEbeat’s Hearts & Voices program, which provides music to people at AIDS facilities in New York City.

Jordan serenaded the crowd with a bevy of songs, then passed out percussion instruments and asked the group to improvise rhythms.

“Stanley is amazing,” said Hearts & Voices coordinator Erika Banks. “His career, what he created on the guitar and piano, the way his life has moved forward. I don’t think anyone who would see him performing and using his music would disagree.” (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>




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