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Musical Notes: Jeff Barnes

March 26, 2013

Reprinted with permission from the Skyland Trail client newsletter.

Written by Skyland Trail clients Erica and Vadi

When we come in on Wednesday, and we're feeling kind of blue, we always know when 12:00 hits; it's time for Harmony through Music with Jeff. If you don't know who Jeff is, he is the music therapist who brings joy to the Skyland Trail clients through music. His inspiration for teaching music and musical talents shapes his overall intriguing character.

Jeff first realized his love for music when he was a child. He recalls moments when his mother would play music and sing as she was cleaning. He vividly remembers listening to her. Besides his mother, what really inspired him musically was the first time he played the guitar. He said, "I got fascinated and played with it for a whole day without realizing time was passing by." Though he always had a love for music, he actually did not start teaching music until fairly recently. He began by teaching music to his daughter's classmates about five years ago. How he needed up at Skyland is actually a unique story.

The first time he came to Skyland, he sat in on one of Helen's art groups. He described his experience and said, "I always listened to that voice in the back of my head or that feeling in my gut. I was only here for 20 minutes, and that voice, a kind of feeling, said to me that I need to be here. This place just feels so special. I think there is magic here, healing here, and I think the staff is incredible here and I wanted to be a part of that. It just felt right."

Jeff doesn't just teach music because he enjoys it, he also finds it reward. He believes being of service to others and trying to help other people is the most rewarding thing he has experience. Fun fact, he even admitted he actually leaves work at Skyland in a much better mood than he came in with!

A part of Jeff's job is to help those who have mental illness connect with music. When asked how does music play in someone's recovery of mental illness, Jeff explains, "Well, one of the things in group is trying to disconnect from thinking about one's self. We do so much of that in other groups, sometimes we need to get a break from it all and get in touch with our rhythmic self and different part of our mind. I think it kind of resets people in the course of the day and brings joy. To me, it seems to refresh my soul."

Jeff is an inspiring person to learn from and to be around. He truly brings out the best of the Skyland Trail clients and staff. He also represents how music might not necessarily provide a cure to someone's mental illness, but at least it gives someone a glimpse of light through darkness or a moment of joy. He's not doubt an amazing person inside and out. In all honesty, he is an asset to Skyland Trail. Thanks, Jeff, for keeping Skyland musical, hopeful and joyous.