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How Bluegrass Music Saved My Soul

Here's how bluegrass music nurtured the emotional well-being of one struggling college student, and how it's carried through to her life as an adult.

When you hear the word "bluegrass" what comes to mind?

For me, it brings warmth, happiness, fun and a sense of goodness and security. I find it interesting that I have such a draw to this genre of music since I never really grew up listening to it.

Some say I have an 'old soul.'

After organizing our "1st Annual Bluegrass in the Park" festival in Emmaus this past weekend, someone asked me why I was so driven to make this happen. Why would a person of my age be inclined to this particular style of music?

I simply love bluegrass. I had never really thought about the why or how.

Whenever I hear the fine notes of the mandolin or the plucking of the banjo, it makes my soul smile. I want to get up and dance! I want to grab an instrument and let my fingers play across the strings. If only I knew how!

(My spoon-playing skills are mediocre at best.)

Then I realized the connection. My love of bluegrass and folk-style music began my freshman year of college.

One of my PSU classmates, Van Wagner, was known for roaming campus with his guitar or banjo, plucking away and making up songs as he went. He was always such a jolly fellow. We quickly became friends.

During this time, I was facing a major family struggle. I was in a serious relationship with a boy I had met in high school, much to my parents’ disapproval. They were so adamantly against the relationship that they told me I should choose between their financial support or my relationship with him. It was an extremely difficult time for me.

Van and my other bluegrass-loving friends helped ease that pain.

We would attend coffeehouses on open mic nights, jam in the courtyard on campus and sit up late at night as we discussed life and lyrics. This was my therapy in a time that was probably one of the most emotionally challenging in my life.

It was refreshing to make the connection.

Since college I've certainly expanded my repertoire of music preferences, but bluegrass has remained at the top.

When I was on bedrest for four months during my pregnancy with my oldest son, my husband brought home a mandolin so I could teach myself a few basic tunes. A few years later, he grabbed a banjo for me at a yard sale.

I have yet to become proficient at either, but I love knowing that they’re in my home just waiting to be played.

During a critical time when I could have turned to drinking and drugs as I dealt with my many family and life stresses, instead, bluegrass saved my soul.

Is there a type of music that has gotten you through tough times? Tell us in the comments.

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