Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Henry Wiens Talks About the Power of Music as an Agent of Healing and Hope

I've always liked good titles, whether of films, music, art or poems. One of my favorite book titles is Jacques Ellul's Hope in Time of Abandonment. Ellul argues that hope is one of the great needs of our time.

That kernel of thought was the first thing that came to mind when I heard about an event that Yamaha recording artist Henry Wiens was going to be part of titled Restoring Hope: Community Healing Service. In 2003 the career pianist consciously began directing his music toward people suffering from grief, stress or chronic pain. He had learned the power of music to comfort and heal.

EN: You said you and a trombone player were doing a special program or service for someone who died as a result of gun violence. Can you share a little about the event and how it came about? 

Henry Wiens: Several churches are coming together for a Community Healing Service to support victims of trauma. Folks will have an opportunity to express their grief in a worship setting and to experience healing through music and words spoken. There will be activities for adults and kids. Refreshments and resources will be available after the service.

An African-American woman in our community experienced trauma when her teen-age son was shot and injured to the point of permanent disability. She started a non-profit organization and asked if our church would host an event involving several other African-American churches on the north side of Pittsburgh.

Our pastor took a lead role and I volunteered to organize music for the event. Part of this has involved my composing a "blues lament" for piano, trombone and percussion based on 2 spirituals. A photographer friend is creating a slide show based on the recording I provided. So this "lament" will also have a visual dimension.

The service will continue with the presentation of ashes, similar to Ash Wednesday, and a candle-lighting time of remembrance for victims of urban violence. Readings, scripture and communion will follow.

EN: When and how did you first realize the power of music as an agent of healing?

HW: I think our mutual friend (Dr.) Dwenda Gjerdingden was one of the first people to bring this to my attention at Bethel Temple. She told me after a church service that a solo I played had a powerful, emotionally healing effect.

The Quiet Heart Story video includes several stories that heightened my awareness, leading to the formation of Quiet Heart Music.

EN: What is the mission of Quiet Heart Music?

HW: To honor the memory of loved ones' lives with personalized gifts of music and to comfort family members. When given by nursing homes, these gifts also provide a lasting reminder of the faithful, loving care provided by their staff and volunteers. But no matter who does the giving - individuals, churches, businesses, etc. - music is uniquely capable of expressing the transcendent beauty of a human life. Personalized CDs exist to honor the completion of life's journey. Many choose the following message for the accompanying card: "Loved ones' lives are like a song, every note rare and precious. We feel blest to have heard the music and shared in their life."

EN: Can you tell us about your new website and what you are trying to achieve?

HW: Although I was very pleased with the lovely graphics on my old site, it looked cluttered on a mobile device. In the process of de-cluttering the site, it became simple, clean and more user friendly on all platforms. My hope is that a broad spectrum of people will discover this meaningful, inexpensive alternative to sending flowers to their friends, co-workers and employees who have lost loved ones. I know this will happen if people visit the site, listen to the music and read testimonials like this: "I was so pleased to find your web site that enabled me to give something meaningful. Flowers are beautiful, but last only days. Music lives on like the spirit & gives peace to the soul."

EN: There are quite a few advocates for music therapy. Do you have connections with any of these people?

HW: The "Music and Memory Program" has probably gotten the most attention and it’s well deserved. Their moving documentary “Alive Inside” has had a huge impact on the long term care community. But no, I'm not personally connected in any way.

EN: Have you followed the research in this area in recent years? It seems that science is verifying what you have known intuitively all along. What are the biggest things you have heard or learned these past five years?

HW: Regarding research, the music itself is central & essential to this program's impact. Many thousands of gift recipients have listened to these CDs and have been comforted and encouraged during a difficult time in their lives. Current research supports the extensive anecdotal feedback I have received since 2003. Consider this excerpt from"Treatment of bereavement through music therapy":

"Both qualitative and quantitative studies have been completed and both have provided evidence to support music therapy in the use of bereavement treatment. One study that evaluated a number of treatment approaches found that only music therapy had significant positive outcomes where the others showed little improvement in participants." --Rosner, Kruse & Hagl, 2010


EN: Has the decline in popularity of CDs affected the relevance of your program?

HW: Although that decline is undeniable, they’re still selling well over a hundred million per year. “CDs are far from dead, and I don’t believe they will be any time soon,” said Zack Zarrillo of Synergy Artist MGMT and Bad Timing Records. Mainstream CD buyers LIKE the familiarity of the CD and value physical ownership.

 That said, I’m also attempting to bridge the generational digital divide.

Free Download Cards are included with each CD so that gift recipients to share a digital copy of their gift of music with other friends and loved ones. Many recipients, regardless of age, have younger relatives who will appreciate this feature, so it's a way to multiply the effect of your gift of music. The iTunes value of each CD download is $9.95.

My music is also available via iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, etc. It’s exciting to see detailed sales reports each month that reflect listeners from around the globe.

Spotify or Apple Music: You can use apps to stream my music in your facility for the benefit of residents receiving palliative care or to calm others who are agitated. You can also download MP3s on Amazon or iTunes.

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For more, visit and bookmark the Quiet Heart Music website.

RELATED LINKS
A 2013 Interview with Henry Wiens
The Power of Music to Reduce Stress
The Comforting Power of Music
Why Are CDs Still A Thing

1 comment:

Paul Tobin said...

Great interview with a wonderful talent. I've listened to Henry's music for most of my life. He's a rare and special talent. And his program called Quiet Heart is a beautiful way to share his talent with all, especially in a time of need.