While walking to class or driving to work, you listen to music. Whether someone is wearing Beats headphones, airpods or perhaps even playing a cd in their car, music seems to always be present.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the art of music acts as a form of treatment for those one-in-five people living with mental illness.
Nella Vasquez is a 19-year-old singer and guitar player. She is from Brooklyn, New York. Nella has anxiety and depression.
“Music has always been an outlet for me,” Nella Vasquez said. “I was always fascinated with the sounds of an acoustic guitar and finally convinced my parents to get me one when I was 11 years old.’’
Vasquez has been singing for as long as she can remember. She feels it comes naturally to her. However, she was always afraid to sing in front of others because of what she thought was being shy.
Nella Vasquez Performing. Photo by Isabel Vasquez.
“In therapy I do exposure exercises to help me combat my social anxiety,” Vasquez said. “I have to sing for a small group of psychologists and hear their feedback. I have a ton of stage fright.”
Vasquez thinks about the big picture when singing. She thinks of delivering the message of the song properly, her pitch, breathing and whether she is straining or not.
Vasquez is on medication to help her cope with her anxiety and depression.
“I’ve recently been put on 200 mg of Zoloft,” Vasquez said. “My anxiety is still prominent unlike the depression which has subsided.”
While some people may go on medication to help, others avoid the use of medication. Some people believe the use of medication makes them foggy or confused. Long Island musician, Chris Parrett is one of these people.
Parrett is an aspiring bass player. He plays local bars and clubs and has even traveled to Texas to play a show with his band, Carrie and the Cats.
Parrett works a part-time job at AC Moore. As soon as his shift is over, he returns to his minivan filled with amps and bass guitars. Most of the time he has a rehearsal or gig to attend.
“I attended a community college for one semester and absolutely hated it,” Parrett said. “Music is my passion. I don’t just do it for fun.”
Parrett can be seen at odd hours of the night relaxing on his couch with his acoustic bass in his arms. He runs through exercises and challenges himself while his family sleeps upstairs.
Parrett will occasionally attend a vocal lesson in order to improve his background and lead singing abilities. However, he is not one to write lyrics.
“I cannot write lyrics,” Parrett said. “I enjoy putting together the pieces of the music behind the lyrics.”
Parrett is not on any medication. However, he has felt depressed and anxious in the past. “I feel medication would mess with me,” Parrett said. “I just keep busy and keep working. I can express my frustration through music. It helps me survive.”
Chris Parrett on stage. Photo by Michael Zinn.
Musicians who consider themselves outcasts are usually welcome with open arms when in the presence of like-minded souls.
Parrett is in nine different bands at the moment. He continues to grow not only as a musician, but as a person.
“I hated high school,” Parrett said. “Life is so much easier now.”
The art of music will continue to heal and inspire for generations to come. Airpods and giant headphones are not going away. The sound of music will only get louder.
Vasquez and Parrett utilize music as a survival guide. While Parrett plays in rock and roll bands, Vasquez continues to further her strength as a guitar player and singer.
“Just listening to music helps me calm down,” Vasquez said. “That’s why I always wear my headphones around my neck. It’s a coping habit.”