Connecting Through Music

Author: Cory Lenherr, MD
Canyon Ranch Lenox

We’ve all seen an explosion of creativity lately. People who are at home and out of their normal routines are finding ways to express themselves – especially through music. Top stars are streaming concerts, families are putting on shows, and musicians are singing, playing and harmonizing together from their far-flung homes. The result? Songs that would not have been written, performances we’re glad we saw and regular people revealing their musical superpowers. People of every skill level are singing together or playing instruments off their balconies for the pure joy of community and music.

Cory Lenherr, MD, feels a personal connection to music, and that was exactly what she needed when the pandemic hit. Here’s her story:

On March 16, 2020, I went to work at Canyon Ranch Lenox wondering what we would do regarding COVID-19. I’d been a primary care physician when the H1N1 virus came to town, and I knew about infection, viral spread and epidemics. By the end of that workday, it had been decided to temporarily close the entire property within the week. I would be at home after March 17. While I was not surprised, the reality was a shock.

Nothing but time

Only a few days earlier, I had been wishing I had more time for painting my apartment. Suddenly, I had more than enough time on my hands. Having my favorite social gatherings stopped, however, stirred up feelings of depression. For a few days, I wasn’t very functional: I took daytime naps, ate potato chips and sugary things and didn’t go outside. And, though I wanted to be in touch with family and friends, I didn’t have the zest to make a call.

The loss of my in-person social network and activities set off the loss-grief-sadness pathways in my system. But here’s the thing: Everyone was in the same, albeit separate, boat. So my “depression” lasted just a few days. People began calling and Zooming and talking about the same worrisome topics. So I may have been in my own boat (aka apartment), but I was not alone.

Music to the rescue

One of my main social connections is the Fiddling Femmes, a local, all-female fiddle group and class. Our usual class was cancelled the same day the decision was made to temporarily close the resort. Soon, we fiddlers were talking with one another about what was happening all around us and what we could do. Miraculously (to me), our teacher set up online lessons and arranged a video-based class for the very next week. It’s been going strong ever since.

We each get online, chat a bit, then use a call and response approach to learn a new tune. While we’re not able to hear each other as we play, the experience is pretty darn amazing – and perhaps a little easier on our teacher’s ears.

The explosion in the use of video conferencing really comes from what is so human in us: We need each other, and our social connections are integral to our mental health. The important lesson I learned: Play more with friends!