HELLO AMERICA!—I had an existential crisis and couldn’t produce another piece of music for TV or radio because it lost its meaning and purpose. Shortly, after 911, I unplugged the TV. I didn’t want to expose myself to the trauma or the media’s portrayal of the event. I also became acutely aware of the media’s dumbing down of our culture and refused to participate in it any longer. I didn’t want my career to be about me. I wanted to serve humanity with the most vulnerable population. So, this inner search led me to earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology while I was still running a high-profile music company.

I started working with homeless veterans. Most were traumatized with complex mental health issues including PTSD, severe mental illness, and addiction. Once I began this journey, I realized that serving others isn’t just a catchphrase or cliché. It’s about being present with someone in the moment and offering validation and support as needed. This interaction with war veterans opened my heart. I started to see and feel the world differently. My patients gave me more than I could ever offer them.

These early experiences as a therapist opened my eyes to a way of being that I could have never obtained if I stayed in the music production business. I realized I wasn’t satisfied just doing business as usual and was willing to risk and explore a life of service.

It’s been gratifying beyond words. It’s also been incredibly difficult at times to manage my own pain being around so much suffering. Graduate school didn’t teach me how to not be taken down by the suffering of others. So, I had to learn the hard way through challenging experiences. Some of the folks I’ve helped have committed suicide, overdosed, gone to jail, been committed, and sent to the state mental hospital and many continue to draw from their strengths and continue to survive.

In order for me to continue doing this challenging work, I developed my inner game of peace through mediation, breath work and working on select music projects that feed my soul. Even though I don’t produce music for a living any longer, the medicine music provides is profound.

In the past couple of years, I’ve collaborated on two POV album projects with Steve Roach, an ambient music pioneer, and my good friend, Peter Grenader. They’re instrumental journeys that offered me a chance to use modern technology and connect with other excellent musicians and composers. It was a way for me to cleanse myself from the heavy emotional lifting of my therapeutic work and let my inner kid go wild.

We’re just getting started on a new album that will be released sometime next year. I’m exploring working with musicians in Ghana, West Africa and hope to include them on the new project. I have no interest in repeating the approaches we’ve already explored on our first two releases. So, this is a brand new blank canvas and I have no idea what will appear.

Finding the balance between art and therapy work is what makes it possible for me to do what I do. I’ve tried to bury the music at times in my life thinking I was done with it all only to find that without creating music regularly life makes me sick. So, I embrace the power and the medicine of sound and use it as a vehicle to heal myself and maybe help someone do the same as a listener. To me, it’s the perfect combination of balance that makes my world go around.

Written By Stevie Zuri