"Can you find your heart beat?"
Lou Boden walks over to a woman who has just put her hand up to the question "who can't play music?" He asks her to mimic the rhythm of her heart by tapping on the table. This beat now becomes the undercurrent for the next piece of music that Three Guys With Notes use to light up the room.
Boden is the founding member of the musical group based in Staunton, VA. He has a long history of playing music but his most life-changing experience came when he heard the sound of a Native American flute being played in the high desert of New Mexico. From that moment on, coupled with "about ten years of schooling dealing with alternative therapies", he knew that he wanted to bring that sound to others in his community.
Three Guys With Notes is so called because, as Boden explains, "we play all kinds of different music, which is why we just say we play notes". The group is made up of Boden who plays his wide collection of Native American flutes, Mike Deaton on percussion, and Chris Wray on bass. This trio is often joined by other musicians whose passion for music only adds to the group's energy.
While they play many gigs around the area, their hearts lie in the music they play for educational and therapeutic purposes. Boden believes that music can draw people away from daily inhibitions, the 'shoulds and should nots' of life. It does more than please their ears - it feeds their spirit.
In the Staunton Senior Center, Three Guys With Notes play to a group of seniors and second-grade children. As soon as they start playing their music - rhythms on the drums and bass, and a hypnotic melody on the flutes - the room falls silent, entranced by the sounds.
For some of the morning, the children and adults sit separately, playing their boom-whackers and shakers together. Soon though, Mike asks the children to find themselves a place to stand next to an adult in the room.
The senior center now truly comes alive as children and seniors alike become part of the band's rhythms. They talk and dance with each other, shakers and multi-colored scarves in hand.
After an hour of music created by both children and adults, the second-graders' time at the center comes to an end. The children file out of the room, hitting Mike's drum as they pass through the door. Their energy is palpable as they bounce out with their teachers.
The session is not over for the adults though. Three Guys With Notes is joined by a regular addition to their trio, Jim Gagnon. With him Jim brings an instrument that peaks everyone in the room's interest: the didgeridoo.
As Jim adds the deep, echoing sounds of his didgeridoo to the melody and rhythm already provided by Three Guys With Notes, their audience becomes transfixed.
The group's last piece is, as Boden suggests, a very, very upbeat one.
The band's music and energy fills the room and suddenly, people get to their feet and start dancing around. Very soon, a long, snaking line of dancers develops, weaving its way between chairs and tables. Those unable to join them are just as active as they smile and dance from their seats.
The atmosphere throughout the room is unrecognizable and the Senior Center is transformed from a quiet and calm place to something resembling a dancehall.
Lou's goal is to be able to spend all of his time in this way, transforming people's mornings and making their days: "if I can play music and use it to help people, that's pure joy". He wants to show them that they too can produce music; he hopes to take care of his community's spirit. As he so poignantly says, "if you learn something, and you don't share it, it's lost."
Three Guys With Notes has now become The Spiritheart Collective. Visit their website and http://www.facebook.com/threeguyswithnotes for more information.