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Event explores healing power of music

R. Carlos Nakai plays the Native American flute. Nakai will be performing during the Healing Power of Music Event.

R. Carlos Nakai plays the Native American flute. Nakai will be performing during the Healing Power of Music Event.

There’s far more to the power of music than its ability to get people out of their seats and dancing. A song can speak to someone, and music may be capable of healing everything from trauma to illnesses.

This weekend a full lineup of musicians, guest speakers and community members will gather at the Edward B. Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd., to experience music on a deeper level. 

The Healing Power of Music festival starts this Friday, Feb. 24, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 26. A mix of musical performances, improv theater, special talks and a documentary screening will explore why music plays such a vital role in human life.

Dan Horner, event creator and owner of Dan Horner Productions, said the event was something he had been planning for years. 

After watching a presentation about scientific research into music’s impacts on the brain, he wanted to highlight the power of music to heal people.

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“There’s been really just a ton of research coming out about it, and that’s when I thought this needs to be its own event,” Horner said. “It’s never been all put together in one event. The healing power of music is universal, for any culture. This is something I felt had to be done.”

The speaker who inspired Horner about six years ago was Dr. Melinda Connor, a neuropsychologist trained in different forms of energy healing. 

She will present a talk called “How Music Heals the Brain” at the festival Sunday from 10-11 a.m. In the talk she will explore the ways music impacts learning, organization, memory and overall health.

Horner said music touches the brain at every different level, and each performance at the festival will engage audience members.

“The whole event has a healing component,” he said. “Every aspect is experiential. It’s not just [to] come and listen to a concert.”

One of the performers who Horner said really creates an interactive experience is songwriter Tiamo De Vettori. 

The UA graduate mixes motivational speaking with music. He tells a story to the audience and then turns it into a song.

“It’s just really inspirational, moving and powerful,” Horner said. “I’ve seen him play a couple of times, and the whole place is in tears by the end. There’s not a dry eye in the house.”

De Vettori will perform on Saturday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Horner stressed that one of the greatest themes of this event is the cultural significance of music. Both headlining acts are Native American and communicate that culture through their performances.

“Culturally, Native American music is part of the religious ceremony, and religion is part of the medicine,” Horner said.

The R. Carlos Nakai Quartet, featuring renowned Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai, will kick off the festival Friday from 7-9 p.m.

Yaqui guitarist and UA graduate Gabriel Ayala and The Gabriel Ayala Quintet will perform Saturday night from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Among the other musicians who will perform at the festival is 13-year-old guitarist and singer Trey Vincent. Diagnosed with autism at age 2, he has used music to improve his emotional regulation and physical motor skills. 

He will perform original songs and covers at 2 p.m. on Sunday, followed by a talk from his mother, Marthajane Vincent, who credits music for her son’s successes. 

The power of music will also be expressed through several different mediums throughout the festival, including a screening of award-winning documentary “Alive Inside” on Saturday from 3:30-5 p.m. and a musical improv comedy performance by From the Top on Sunday at 2:45 p.m.

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Tickets for the festival range from $10 for only the “Alive Inside” documentary to $150 for all three days of the event. Tickets can be purchased for individual events, and day passes are also available. UA students will receive 40 percent off.

Horner has always been impacted by music and said everyone has the chance to feel its healing power at this weekend’s festival. 

“The event will create a huge appreciation for music and shift the way people experience music in their lives,” he said. “There is coherence between the brain and heart when listening to music, and it opens us up to other people. Music is a unifying shared experience and brings people together like no other force.”

For a full schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, visit Tickets can also be purchased at the door.

Follow Jamie Verwys on Twitter.

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