I recently spoke with a volunteer from Special Olympics in Connecticut. We talked about my experiences with SOCT during the summer of 2009. I had a chance to reflect on the weekend I spent visiting the summer games and playing a concert for athletes, their families and the staff/volunteers of Special Olympics. I wanted to share part of our conversation with you, which started off with questions about my music and how I got connected with Special Olympics.
Do you have any idols or inspirations?
First of all, I have no idols. I thank G-d constantly that he gave me this talent and that I found it, albeit later in life. I don’t know where to begin, since I have so many people who inspire me. But it’s not just people, but also events that inspire me.
In fact, it was a young child who inspired me to write the title song of my first album, Hear the Children. I saw a young child in a wheelchair at a playground, having a great time with the other kids. I was inspired by the feeling of seeing a child – in a wheelchair – acting no different than a perfectly normal child – and his expressions of creativity, exploration, investigation, curiosity all were so moving. These aspects, as I have learned, comprise song writing as well. Song writing is play.
My music is inspired by …….humming………. since children hum a lot.
It is inspired by being blessed with children later in life.
It is inspired by realizing the magnitude of the responsibility of a parent – indeed, what all adults carry – when we watch over and/or influence our child, or any child. Many, many parents tell me that they drive with their children listening to my music.
It is inspired by seeing other children helping that wheelchair bound child, and the song Hear the Children is a call to each of us to remember to teach them to do for tomorrow as well as for today, and to pass along our highest standards.
It is inspired by the gratitude for the opportunity to do so.
It is inspired by realizing that we all have the child in us to develop, to rediscover, to nurture, and to help bring out that child’s music, however expressed…even – especially – in what we mistakenly consider “non musical” ways, that I feel are just as much musical as a song, if we learn to see and hear differently.
What are your future goals/ aspirations?
I would like to continue to inspire others. It is very humbling to receive correspondence from around the world, telling me that the music helps them relax and is inspiring. There are several surgical hospitals which have the patients listen to the music before surgery. It lowers the amount of anesthesia needed, I am told.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love my day job, working with one of the world’s most pre-eminent market forecasters, Charles Nenner. The way he looks at the world, through cycle analysis, has taught me many things. When not playing music, I study the Torah and Talmud, spend time with the family and friends, hike, exercise, and actually enjoy solitude. Much music flies in then.
I read that you cannot read a musical note, how did that effect you when writing your music?
I write, but in my head, not on paper. As you said, I cannot properly read sheet music. It’s actually something my music coach has said I should never try – to learn to read music . At this stage, it would mess me up. When I get inspired, I just sit down and start playing. It’s a tremendous rush to see a song come to life right in front of me. Also, I call songs into my answering machine, and then, access them via a conference call to my voice mail and the studio. Then, I get the songs on a file, and work on them. I could use a recorder, but that would be to high tech for me!
“Hear the Children” was written way before I ever got involved with the Special Olympics. Shortly after visiting my first event in Connecticut, we added images of athletes competing as a visual backdrop to the song, and the result is amazing. It was as if the song was written for Special Olympics! It’s actually the only song on my album that has words, and the words fit the images so well.
The picture here was taken during the summer games in Connecticut. It was at this event I had the chance to meet so many athletes and as you can see here, even participate in the awards ceremony.
After working with the Special Olympics, how did it influence/change your life?
My experience with the Special Olympics has opened my horizons in so many ways. In fact, it has pushed me to do benefit concerts whenever I can for other groups as well. Special Olympics gave to me much more than I gave to them.
What is your most memorable moment spent with the athletes from the Special Olympics?
During the concert, I heard one of the athletes in the audience humming and singing along to the music. I have received many comments by email from fans around the world, but nothing was more meaningful than hearing one athlete in the audience singing.
What are some of the reactions that you received from ‘Hear The Children’?
It is quite humbling to read the comments I receive. “Therapeutic”, “Peaceful”, “Inspiring” .. one of my favorites came from Lynne T: “Your music soothes my brain.” I hope people will come to associate the song with Special Olympics.
What would you like to achieve for the Special Olympics?
First, I would like to continue to be a part of Special Olympics for myself and my family, to continue to meet people who inspire me. For example: Mike Hedrick, an athlete with Special Olympics Connecticut. He approached me and shared his affinity for the music. At the concert, Mike, a golf star, presented one of the songs. For Special Olympics, I hope the music can bring more people closer to an organization that has so much to give. I also hope to do more benefits for them, nationally as well. I would love to meet the Massachusetts branch.
Do you have any advice for people interested in volunteering for the Special Olympics?
What does not matter is the extent to which you can get involved. I suggest everyone should find a way to volunteer for Special Olympics. You might think that you are doing something nice for the athletes and maybe their families, but you’re in for a surprise. The athletes give back in ways that I cannot put in words. These are very holy souls.