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Rob Lutes

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Rob Lutes


On music and men­tal health

My name is Rob Lutes. I’m a singer-song­writer, musi­cian, and music edu­ca­tor who lives in Pointe-Clair, Quebec.

Music and men­tal health, it’s an enor­mous ques­tion and the answer could be enor­mous, but in gen­er­al for me, music is just good for my brain and good for my body. Play­ing, singing, com­pos­ing, explor­ing, lis­ten­ing to music, talk­ing about music, all these things just make me hap­pi­er. (They) make me feel bet­ter more ful­filled, more engaged, more excit­ed about my life and the world. And in a world full of dif­fi­cult things, par­tic­u­lar­ly in recent years when it’s been fraught with polit­i­cal­ly charged events and dif­fi­cul­ties, music is a place where there’s so much beau­ty. So many great things hap­pen­ing. It’s a place where I can find and oth­ers can find ways to tack­le these things, cope with these things emotionally.

Music is filled with so many emo­tions and in my def­i­n­i­tion music is a shared expe­ri­ence. You know that some­one else is feel­ing what you’re feel­ing. Whether you’re lis­ten­ing to a piece by Beethoven or a song by any song­writer, and no mat­ter what it is they’re express­ing, if it’s touch­ing you then you know that you’re con­nect­ing. And to me that’s a huge part of the musi­cal expe­ri­ence as a writer and a performer.

What I’m try­ing to do is con­nect and it’s the same with work­shops. When I give work­shops, I’m try­ing to con­nect and to me that’s the real cen­ter of health, that con­nec­tion that you can find through music.

On song­writ­ing and music his­to­ry for seniors at home

I’ve been doing work­shops on song­writ­ing and music his­to­ry, par­tic­u­lar­ly Blues his­to­ry since about 2000. And what got me start­ed was basi­cal­ly tour­ing and fes­ti­vals where I would be going some­where and they would say what kind of work­shops could you offer.

And so, I devel­oped work­shops on these two things. When the pan­dem­ic hit, a per­son named Fred Agnus, who was direc­tor of an orga­ni­za­tion in Vau­dreuil, Que­bec called Rézo (or net­work) asked me one day. “Rob could you devel­op some­thing for these peo­ple who can’t leave their homes?” They were iso­lat­ed because of the pan­dem­ic and so I took about a week and I thought about it.

I thought, I’ve always been real­ly into music his­to­ry and his­to­ry of songs and I real­ly like research­ing and know­ing about this. So I decid­ed I’d do a his­to­ry of pop­u­lar music in Amer­i­ca and Cana­da. It was an ambi­tious idea, but I thought I’ll just start and see what I can do. I had all this time because of the pandemic.

I was­n’t gig­ging nor­mal­ly and I had this pro­gram that I was giv­ing vir­tu­al­ly, so I got this expe­ri­ence of see­ing the reac­tion of peo­ple in the pro­grams when I would play songs, par­tic­u­lar­ly old­er songs from the 1700s and 1800s. Their reac­tion and these were songs that they knew the met­ric for the pro­gram was it includ­ed songs that had sur­vived that amount of time while so many oth­ers had fall­en by the wayside.

So it was real­ly Fred who got me start­ed on this and then as I start­ed doing this his­to­ry of pop­u­lar music. The word spread and oth­er peo­ple start­ed want­i­ng me to do it and so I had more pro­grams and then also peo­ple in the pro­gram would start request­ing songs. So while I was already doing my research, I would start to research the songs that they asked for, and so my reper­toire grew, and my under­stand­ing grew and it just kept expand­ing. Find­ing new songs from the past and it was some­body else that spurred me into doing this and I have thanked Fred for get­ting me start­ed on this path.

On his path to his work in music and health

My path into this was real­ly through two things. Well more than two things but one was sim­ply lov­ing music. Real­ly enjoy­ing it and nev­er see­ing it as a career. I nev­er saw myself as a per­son who would do this full-time, but just lov­ing, lov­ing music. Num­ber two, final­ly doing the tra­di­tion­al kind of career record­ing, releas­ing records, tour­ing, that kind of path­way. The third would be this love of his­to­ry. Some­thing I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in. So those three things com­bined because as a song­writer, I feel like every­thing is build­ing on some­thing else. Noth­ing comes out of nowhere, musi­cal­ly or in any of the Arts.

Even if you’re com­plete­ly break­ing with a tra­di­tion, you’re break­ing with some­thing. You’re going in anoth­er direc­tion, so it’s relat­ed. I find that real­ly always help­ful in my song writ­ing, is the things you’ve heard that inspire you to write some­thing. Work­ing in the health field real­ly came from some­one else. And it taught me, I nev­er thought about music and health hon­est­ly, it nev­er occurred to me. It was just part of my life and every­one’s life, but it nev­er occurred to me, the direct con­nec­tion between music and men­tal health.

The more I do this, the more I under­stand how heal­ing and how help­ful music can be for peo­ple in all dif­fer­ent ways, what­ev­er kind of music you’re doing, so that’s been a a big part of it for me.

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