Transcription of Musical Healing #303

Speaker 1: You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at Here are a few highlights from this week’s program.
Pamela Florea: We’ve known for centuries, since the beginning of time, how sound impacts a person’s emotional well-being, for instance. You think of Gregorian chants in churches and Tibetan monks chanting and Native American drumming, for instance. These are traditions that have been around for centuries.
Dan Connor: Thankfully I’ve learned a lot about the brain, the science of the brain. The tumor was located in the left frontal lobe, which is where you get your executive functioning, your ability to plan, your ability to organize. Your right frontal lobe is where you get your creativity. I still have that.
Lisa Belisle: This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 303, Musical Healing, airing for the first time on Sunday, July 9, 2017. Music is part of our celebration and our inspiration. It can serve as a means of commonality between humans. It can also heal. Today we speak with Pamela Florea, a psychotherapist who integrates sound into the modality she offers her clients in order to help them break cycles of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. We also have a conversation with Maine singer/songwriter Dan Connor, who’s returned to his music as a way of returning to health after having surgery for a brain tumor in 2012. Thank you for joining us.
Speaker 1: Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest gallery and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at
Lisa Belisle: My next guest is Pamela Florea, who has been in the nursing profession for more than 40 years and has a private practice in Freeport. Over the past two decades she has worked as an intuitive energy psychotherapist, integrating sound and color healing with traditional talk therapy. Thanks for coming in today.
Pamela Florea: Thanks for having me, Lisa.
Lisa Belisle: I’m very interested in what you do, because there are a lot of people out there who are trying to make changes in th¬¬¬eir lives, which is not easy, and you’re giving them a new way to do that, I think.
Pamela Florea: That’s pretty accurate, yes. My practice integrates the principles of energy medicine, so working with the human energy field, working with the meridians, the chakras, person’s auric field, to work at balancing and creating harmony in the physical body, as well as employing traditional therapeutic interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance. A session combines both. It’s very holistic.
Lisa Belisle: You came at this after having been in a pretty straightforward nursing field for probably at least half the time you’ve been in nursing.
Pamela Florea: Yes, exactly. I have been in various clinical settings, hospital settings, but I’ve always, even though out of nursing school I worked neonatal intensive care, for instance, and very aware even early on in my nursing profession that I always had an interest in the alternative, always interested in what other things we were doing.
For instance, in neonatal intensive care, it was being aware of how the premature babies in the isolettes needed to be held, they needed to be touched, and aware that we would pipe in music into the isolettes and the incubators, which made them calm down and affected their growth rates.
Even though I was in very traditional settings, working in the operating room, allowing people to have headphones and be able to listen to music would have an overall impact on the recovery time, for instance.
Very aware throughout the 40 years, but then in the last 20 years is when I really came into my groove and I would say found my passion, being able to really integrate sound healing into a private practice, because I had gone back at that point, being able to be out on my own and independent from working in institutions. I started incorporating sound healing, for one, which is a really fascinating discipline to incorporate with traditional therapy. It’s amazing to see the progress and see people move through difficult transitions in their life more smoothly with introducing sound, for instance.
Lisa Belisle: If I was going to come see you for some healing therapy, what types of things might I be interested in dealing with?
Pamela Florea: I’ll use the example of somebody who might be dealing with anxiety, or who has a trauma history for instance and has some PTSD or chronic anxiety. My goal would be, first of all, using some cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction techniques to get them comfortable in their body and teaching them ways to illicit a relaxation response in the body, like Herbert Benson’s work with his cardiac patients. This is just basic as being able to provide an antidote for the fight-or-flight response. A lot of people who experience trauma, for instance, are not comfortable in their bodies at all. There will be part talking through that sort of thing, guided visualization exercises to do at home.
Then they would get on the table, and I might use tuning forks on the meridians, for instance. I might use my hoop drum to really ground them and center them in their body. I have crystal singing bowls. I have different instruments and sound. It’s all about working with the energy and being able to balance and shift, and it provides a tonic to the nervous system.
Not only that, there’s a whole branch of medicine now called psycho-acoustic. Although that term may be new for some people to hear, we’ve known for centuries, since the beginning of time, how sound impacts a person’s emotional well-being, for instance. You think of Gregorian chants in churches and Tibetan monks chanting and Native American drumming, for instance. These are traditions that have been around for centuries.
Now in more modern medicine, what we’re doing is, through the use of imaging, PET scans and EEGs, we’re noticing how it impacts the brainwaves and how it impacts a person’s neurochemistry. It actually has an impact on producing more serotonin, which of course is the neurochemical that influences mood and sleep and managing pain. There’s actually changes going on on a cellular level. It’s a combination of various modalities that I would use.
Lisa Belisle: You’re doing things that go across the spectrum, everything from cognitive behavioral, which is more of a standard psychotherapeutic practice, two things that have been going on for a long time, centuries, but just haven’t necessarily been incorporated previously into the type of practice that we’ve been offering patients. Why sound? We have various senses. Some people are really a lot more impacted by something visual. I know that we’ve talked to people who do light training, for example. For you, sound was important. Why is that?
Pamela Florea: You could be in your car and listen to a song on the radio, and it just can completely make you smile and relax and just shift your mood from this difficult day at work. It’s accessible to everyone on every level, even if it’s just listening to, like I say, a song on the radio. You don’t have to go to a sound healer to feel impacted. I think it’s just because it’s so profound.
I know of so many integrative doctors, like the late Mitch Gainer, with his oncology patients in particular. I’m just fascinated by that, and also color, the frequency of color and how color influences our mood too. I’ve personally experienced the healing benefits of sound, and because I was personally impacted by that, I’m more passionate about it. I guess that would help answer the question.
Lisa Belisle: Was there a turning point where you were, I don’t know, you’re lying on a table yourself and somebody was doing something with sound and you felt just so profoundly moved that you realized this was something that you needed to learn more about?
Pamela Florea: I grew up in a big Catholic, alcoholic family. I experienced a lot of chaos, a lot of dysfunction, a lot of trauma, I guess you would say, as a kid. I was very open to being able to, and how that created stress in my own body, and as I was approaching adulthood and just wanting to deal with some of that, I experimented around with different modalities.
I went over and did some training in France, learning how to use tuning forks and the meridians. They have these huge instruments of sound that you would sit in, and then the sound would just reverberate through your whole entire being. I felt tremendous purging from that experience.
I guess that’s what would come to mind is that, I just, like it had cleared out a lot of emotional baggage and really was able to shift some perspectives and understanding about moving through things and how I could help other people be able to shift and move forward and instill hope and that you can overcome anything really.
Lisa Belisle: It’s interesting as you’re talking about the chaos of a large family, because as you know, I’m the oldest of 10 children. My family was as functional as a 10-child family could be. We didn’t have some of the bigger issues that other families struggle with, but it was chaotic. There definitely was a lot going on. For myself in my own life, I actually have found myself gravitating towards silence, probably as a result of early on being impacted by all of the stuff, none of which was really bad. It was just very normal. I think there is something really formative about being in a household that has a certain level of whatever noise there is.
Pamela Florea: Same. Totally relate to that experience. I’m particularly interested in, back in the mid-’90s, the CDC had done a study, they called it, and it’s with Kaiser Permanent. It was a study done with, I don’t know, 15 to 20,000 people. It was measuring looking at adverse childhood experiences and seeing the correlation between adult illness.
Those early experiences and what they call adverse childhood experience doesn’t have to be the acute trauma. It doesn’t necessarily have to be abuse of some kind. It can be the chaos you’re describing, growing up in just a huge family where there’s only so much time that parents have to devote to kids. It can be a depressed parent. It can be financial strain, of course, loss of death or illness, a parent that’s chronically ill.
The interesting thing is that I’m really interested in making this connection, and this is where I feel like I can be a bridge, is the early experiences in childhood like that, where there’s a chronic, relentless stress. It sets the nervous system in a way that’s like fight-or-flight chronically. What we’re seeing in adults is a lot of inflammatory chronic illness, because of the surge in cortisol levels. They are more prone to autoimmunity, cancer, heart disease, all the major obesity, and of course diabetes, and even looking at addiction, ways that adults cope.
I think there’s a huge opportunity or an educational piece as part of preventive medicine, because we’re not hearing about this and med students are not learning about being able to make that connection and be able to ask the right questions, because quite often, especially in the primary care setting right now, the way managed care is set up, and these limited visits, people aren’t sharing these things with their physician. They’re just dealing with what they…. Nobody’s making the connection or asking questions about what your childhood was like. There’s just not time for that, but there certainly needs to be more education, or even have it be part of the intake or the questionnaires for your annual exam.
I think that that’s a huge gap that I think we need to look at, because since that study was done in the mid-’90s, there have been thousands more that are supporting this evidence, and these people are still being followed from that original study.
Oftentimes it doesn’t even have to be a big…. Just for somebody to make that connection, for your physician to make that connection and to maybe recommend that you go see someone to talk about it or to have somebody who may be working energetically with them is oftentimes a relief. It may be the first time in their life that they’ve ever shared their experience or thought that it might even be relevant. It’s just an educational opportunity, I think.
Lisa Belisle: Do you think that the reason that we don’t always think to ask about people’s childhood experiences is because we’re not really sure how we could possibly impact them?
Pamela Florea: Again, I think that, and you could speak to this too, and when you went through your training, it’s an area of discomfort, because if somebody opens up and shares something about their childhood, you have to be equipped with being able to offer resources out in the community or be able to….
I used to work for a big group medical practice in Portland and opened a behavioral health department there for the first time. I think that’s a real need, too, is being able to integrate behavioral health into the primary care setting, to be able to keep track of those clients, instead of them going out into the community, you lose track on whether they actually followed up on anything, whether they’re getting some help. I think part of it is not knowing what to do with the information then is my guess.
Lisa Belisle: Now we’ve been talking about dealing with dysfunction, but I remember you and I, we knew each other through delivering babies together when I was a resident, and you were one of the nurses who always made sure that the lights were low, always made sure that all the beeping, loud things were turned down, obviously taking care of the patient, but being aware that this was a small, fragile baby being born into the world and the mother that was doing a lot of work. Are there preventive things that we can be doing? Are there things that we can be incorporating into our lives energetically or sound-wise that can be helpful?
Pamela Florea: I think that the time-honored traditions of energy medicine, which incorporate all the Eastern philosophies, with yoga, tai chi, qi gong, acupuncture, any kind of moving the physical body, even just getting out and walking in nature, so being aware of our energy bodies and being able to work with that. Qi gong and tai chi are wonderful ways of, on your own, and yoga, being able to shift and move energy in the body. You don’t have to go to a sound healer to have an impact with moving energy in your body. I think, yeah, getting out and being able to walk in nature is a wonderful tonic to the nervous system, and you’re just sitting in nature, being able to de-stress.
Lisa Belisle: What you’re talking about with tai chi, qi gong, acupuncture, you’re talking about the use of meridians in a slightly different way. You’ve been talking about previously using sound to activate, I guess, the meridians that are used traditionally in Chinese medicine. You’re just using them in a different way.
Pamela Florea: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Another, when you talk about things that people can do on their own, for instance, chronic stress, worry, anxiety, pretty much it exists in your left part of your brain, it’s more of the worrying mind, the one that’s ruminating and constantly just fretting about life, and the more things that you can do to activate your right brain, which involves all this movement I’m talking about, but in addition, dance, singing, for instance, being in the car and singing activates the creative brain, and for instance, it’s impossible to sing and worry at the same time, so the more ways that you can incorporate more joy, more laughter, being able to counteract that left brain that wants to be in a chronic state of worry.
With my clients I’m often recommending more play and more fun and more pleasure in their life. How can they incorporate dance? How can they incorporate and make sure that they’re moving their bodies? That’s a way of keeping everything in balance.
Lisa Belisle: What I wonder is, we’ve spent a lot more time focusing on physician and provider wellness, not just physicians, but all health care providers and their wellness, which is a conversation that we weren’t even having 20 years ago. Partially it’s because we’ve had more providers across the board feeling the chronic stress of things being ramped up, shorter time frames with patients and more productivity and quality goals that need to be met, all of which are very legitimate, but it does increase a certain amount of stress, which is leading to provider breakdown. I wonder if the more providers themselves see that they need to come back to a place of balance in a healthier way, the more the types of things that you are doing will become embraced.
Pamela Florea: Do you think it’s reaching that point, in your experience?
Lisa Belisle: I think we’re still talking about provider wellness at this point. I don’t know how much we’re actually doing about it. I think it’s a little bit like the crisis, that people have to get to the place of crisis before anybody recognizes it, and then they’re still considered the outliers. I would love to say, “Yes, it’s so much better.” I think we’re still working on it. I don’t think we’ve gotten to a place of prevention quite yet.
Pamela Florea: I think some things have changed. If you think about the on-call schedule, for instance, in residencies and all of that, that seems to be improving and certainly more realistic. I know having worked in the hospitals during the time when I worked there, the demands and the rigors of the physicians who were on call were just over the top, and you had a lot of sleep-deprived physicians that were having to function the next day.
It’s part of the reason why I didn’t go into… I had contemplated midwifery instead of becoming a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, because it was whether or not I wanted to have that on-call schedule and all of that. It was a quality-of-life decision.
I think we have to look at what is going well and what has changed. There’s an awareness there that it’s an overall system that needs to change, how we approach medicine. A lot of it is just a time management thing. It’s a lack of time to really properly address the preventive piece of medicine that is so needed. I think maybe, like in Maine here, the crisis with the opiate addiction, that is a direct correlation to how our society is dealing with stress, with what I was talking about earlier with the adverse childhood experience. That’s how we cope as adults, do we turn to alcohol, do we turn to drugs. That’s reaching an epidemic proportion.
Things like that may help us look at how we can deal with the bigger issues in a broader way, because it is about the drugs, but it’s about what is underneath, what is underneath there that is not being treated properly.
I’m not an expert. I don’t have the answer for all of that. I see a path, and however winding it is, I think that we’ll hopefully be able to get there, but I do think there need to be classes in med school about this. I think they need to start talking more about prevention and not just treating symptoms and looking at the whole person.
Lisa Belisle: I agree. As the mother of a child who’s starting med school this summer, I really hope they start these classes soon, because I want my kid to come out on the other side to not only be a good doctor, but also to be psychologically and emotionally whole, because that will make him a better doctor and a better human being. I think all of these things that we’re talking about, from your lips to God or the creator, to the ears of the greater energy I guess.
I’ve been speaking with Pamela Florea, who has been in the nursing profession for more than 40 years and has a private practice in Freeport. Over the past two decades she has worked as an intuitive energy psychotherapist, integrating sound and color healing with traditional talk therapy. Thanks for coming in today.
Pamela Florea: This was great. Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 1: Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at
Lisa Belisle: It is my pleasure to have in the studio with me Dan Connor, who has been an integral part of Maine’s music community over the last two decades. Prior to focusing on his solo career, Dan was a singer and songwriter for the band Gypsy Tailwind. In June 2012 he suffered a seizure, and doctors found a brain tumor the size of a peach. After a year of recovery, Dan was again able to drive a car, and took a job as a taxi driver. He has since begun playing his instruments and songwriting and recording again, and he released a new single in April. Thanks for coming in.
Dan Connor: Thanks for having me.
Lisa Belisle: I think I would have to correct this bio, “Maine’s music community over the last two decades.” I have known you as a musician since we were both in high school, at Yarmouth High School. That’s a few more than two decades ago.
Dan Connor: Yeah, that might be three or more, three and a half.
Lisa Belisle: Four, yeah. Who’s counting really? You’ve been doing this a long time.
Dan Connor: I have. Yes, I have. It’s kept me alive though, I think, somehow.
Lisa Belisle: Yeah? I was very shocked to hear about this brain tumor. That’s crazy, because I had known you in high school and then more recently, and then you went through this big, big thing. I guess I want to learn more about that.
Dan Connor: It was a shock to me as well. Jeez. I was at Old Port Fest. It was the day of Old Port Festival. I was out with my dog, beautiful day. Had just recently started dating this girl, and that night we hung out and I decided to stay at her place. What’s crazy is we had talked about seizures. She had talked about she had had a seizure, and I had said, “My mom’s epileptic, and I have epilepsy in my family.”
About 2:00 in the morning I had a seizure at her house. Of course at first she thought I was kidding and making it up or faking it, but then she realized that that wasn’t the case. She’s a blessing in that she’s a trauma nurse at Maine Medical Center. She knew right away and she woke me up and I came out of it and she said, “You just had a seizure.” Of course I thought she was joking, because we had talked about it, which I’d found odd that of all things we had been talking about seizures. Then I knew what had happened, and she put me in her car and brought me to Mercy. I had a CAT scan. They found something on that scan. They then brought me to Maine Med and put me in an MRI.
I came to the following morning, opened my eyes in a hospital room at Maine Med, and there’s this tall, lanky guy sitting at the end of my bed, and I looked around and saw all my family members, and I thought to myself, “What’s going on?” He said, “You have a brain tumor.” I thought, “Oh. This can’t be true. I must be dreaming.” The following morning I was in emergency surgery to have it removed.
Thank god I had that seizure. Had I not, the tumor was advancing, and could’ve been fatal. I was saved, really. It’s ongoing. It’s called an oligodendroglioma. Say that one 10 times fast. Wow, it’s something that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life. It’s not thought to be curable, but it’s manageable, like chronic illness is, the way they like to put it. Although it’s cancer, they just look at it like any chronic illness. I have to have MRIs every six months. That’s always nerve-wracking. I can have treatment, more surgery. I think they can manage it for a long time, which I’m lucky. If you’re gonna have a brain tumor, you’ll want to have an oligo, because it’s slower growing and more manageable.
It’s not a great thing to deal with, but it’s in some ways a blessing to me in that it put a lot of things in perspective, what’s important. Here I am, alive, doing well, and feeling pretty darn good, aside from the seizure medication, which is yucky, but that’s okay, I’ll deal with it.
Lisa Belisle: Before you had the seizure, there was no indication that anything was going on for you?
Dan Connor: Looking back, my behavior had changed pretty significantly over the prior three or four years. I was provocative, risk-taking, bursts of anger, just things that were out of character for me. Of course for me at the time, I didn’t notice it, but a lot of other people did. I can’t blame it all on that. A lot of behavioral changes, lack of follow-up, follow-through. A lot of things went haywire. I got fired by my own band. Then that happened, and they had it removed and the recovery was long and tough, but I think ultimately I’m better. I feel better. My brain’s working a lot better without that big tumor pressing on all the adjacent areas.
Lisa Belisle: That’s a good size for a tumor to be.
Dan Connor: It was. Yeah, it was. My doc said it was maybe the biggest one he had ever removed. He does a lot of those. The way I look at it is I’m strong to have a tumor that large and not have it be found earlier. Ultimately it’s a blessing. It’s hard to look at it that way all the time, but I’m here. I think it’s really inspired me to work harder at music, knowing that life can be very short, and at any moment you can lose your life. That goes for anybody.
About a year and a half to two years maybe after, I started to recover, get my thoughts back, be able to use my words, and I started writing and playing and recording on my own. Here I am, five years later. Coming right up will be my anniversary. They don’t call it remission with primary brain tumors. They call it stable. The tumor’s stable, and I’m really happy about that actually.
Lisa Belisle: You have a daughter who’s starting high school next year.
Dan Connor: Yes, Grace.
Lisa Belisle: This must’ve been really difficult for her.
Dan Connor: It was. We didn’t let her know, because she was eight-and-a half. I don’t know how her mom and my mother put it to her, because I don’t have a lot of memory of the whole time period, but just over this last year or so we’ve clued her in as to what’s going on and let her know that, “Your dad has an illness, and he goes for MRIs, and it’s brain cancer, and he’s gonna be okay.” It’s important to understand it and to know, so that if something goes wrong quickly, it won’t be a total shock to her. She’s been clued in, and she’s strong. She’s a tough kid. She’s a hell of a musician, by the way, multi-instrumentalist, records her own songs, plays guitar, horn, piano. I’m not so sure if there’s enough room for both of us in this town. It makes me really happy. I must have done something right.
Lisa Belisle: I would think that as someone whose primary interest in life is being creative, to have something like a tumor in the brain must’ve been really deeply unsettling.
Dan Connor: It was. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot about the brain, the science of the brain. The tumor was located in the left frontal lobe, which is where you get your executive functioning, your ability to plan, your ability to organize. Your right frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex is where you get your creativity. I still have that part of me, and maybe more, without the left frontal lobe dragging it down into trying to overthink or over-plan. I feel like it’s allowed me to just flow creatively.
Planning is still tough. I have help from a very important person in my life, Gretchen, who helps me plan and record and takes care of the web things and the Facebook and all the social media platforms, and is also a pretty darn talented engineer. She holds it together on that side. She plays left frontal lobe in my band, I suppose.
Lisa Belisle: It sounds like even absent a tumor, it’s good to have somebody who can complement you well, regardless.
Dan Connor: It is. It’s good to have someone who understands and knows the limitations, memory, things like that, the ability to remember and schedule and things like that are difficult. The iPhone isn’t always the best way to do that. Sometimes I enter appointments and things and I think to myself, “Why didn’t it pop?” Using a calendar, things like that. I was kidding with someone here at the office, Chris, about, I know he had had a stroke, and I was asking him, is that why all the ink is all over his palms. It’s really important to have that support. It’s critical. Without it, things don’t go very well.
Lisa Belisle: Given that, as you said, you were fired by your own band, did you have the opportunity to go back and talk to people from Gypsy Tailwind and other parts of your life to say, “Hey, this is what happened to me.”
Dan Connor: Yeah. I was half-joking when I said “fired.” They just decided that I was just too crazy, and that’s the truth. I still feel badly about that. You can’t always blame that on a head injury or a brain injury. I have been able to go back and talk that through with them.
I can remember when I was being wheeled on a gurney, I guess, from my room, my hospital room, towards the surgery room, and I was half out of it, but all of them came running through the hall and escorted me to the surgery room. That says a lot about those guys. They’re incredible people. They made the band. Although I was the primary songwriter, none of that would’ve happened without all of them. I understand it. I’ve made peace with it and I’ve made peace with them. That feels good for everyone, I think.
It’s really important to heal. There were a lot of wounds that I created. I look back and I feel badly about it. Some of it was me maybe. Some of it was having a tumor, but that’s been healed, and it feels good.
Lisa Belisle: After you had recovered for a year and we were able to drive again, you were working as a taxi driver. That’s interesting, and probably not something that you expected would happen at that stage in your life.
Dan Connor: No. I knew someone that drove a cab, and I was looking for something to do and something that would be… Are we still recording?
Lisa Belisle: Yes.
Dan Connor: Do you want to ask that question again? Maybe he’ll edit it.
Lisa Belisle: Yeah, sure. Let me just….
Dan Connor: Sorry.
Lisa Belisle: There we go. After your recovery you were able to drive again and became a taxi driver, which probably wasn’t something you had thought about doing for a job prior to that time.
Dan Connor: No, I hadn’t. I had never thought I would be a taxi driver. I had a friend that did taxi driving and said, “Hey, maybe you ought to check it out. I can get you can interview or a job maybe driving for a local taxi company.” I thought, “I don’t know.” Then I thought, “Maybe. Why not? It’s something different.” I got in a cab, and I was early on in my recovery, so my memory wasn’t great, and my ability to remember directions was not healed completely, but they knew, they were aware of my condition, and that I had had surgery.
The funniest thing is the first day they put me on the road in a cab, it was St. Patrick’s Day, the busiest day of the year. I had had minimal training. You’re working on a radio with rough and tough dispatchers. They put me in a cab, and I needed to go fill it with gas, drove it up the road to the Big Apple, pulled it up to the pump, had to lock the cab, because you never leave your cab open. I locked the cab, put the nozzle in to fill it up, went in and paid, came out, “Uh-oh, I’ve locked the keys in my cab.” First day on the road.
Went in, had the store call. The store had to call because my cellphone was in the cab. Now I’m absolutely, my heart’s racing a million miles an hour. They call down and they say, “One of your cab drivers locked his keys in his cab at our pump,” and they had to send another guy up with a backup set of keys, open it, and now you got two cabs off the road on the busiest day of the year. I finally get back in my cab, I book in, just, “Hey, I’m back on the road, this is cab whatever number,” and the dispatcher said, “Oh great, a rookie cab driver locking his keys in his cab on his first day, on the busiest day of the year,” and every cab driver hears this. That started that.
What was amazing about cab driving is I actually really enjoyed it. It really helped me recover. It helped me with memory, tasks, following instruction, directions, remembering to pick people up when they gave me a job, having conversations with passengers, practicing conversing, if you will, with people that I didn’t really know. It was good in that way and was anonymous and safe for me.
After a couple years I’d become really good at driving a cab. Then I suffered another seizure. My neurologist said, “Yeah, pretty much cab driving’s over for you.” I said, “Oh well. It was a good two-year run.” That was my best form of rehab, to rehab my brain. It was pretty incredible. It wasn’t necessarily by choice.
Looking back, I’ve really improved significantly over that period of time. During that time I became inspired and really started thinking about music, playing my instruments, and taking my recording gear at home out of a box that it had been sitting in. Where I was living had an old woodshed out back that I converted into a makeshift studio and started doing it again and really found the love and really worked my butt off, so to speak, to create songs that are real.
I’m feeling pretty good about it actually at this point, which is nice. I don’t know what I’d do without it. I don’t know that I’d be who I am today without it. I’d be a different person. There was a time I thought I would just give it up and that I couldn’t do it anymore. Giving up music, it’s not something I can do. I’ve tried. Can’t do it, so here I am, back at it again, recording songs and putting them out, and that feels amazing to me.
Lisa Belisle: I think about people in music, and I know that, for example, Spencer Albee, our sound engineer, he is roughly our age or a little bit younger, and he has just released his 20th album. That’s a lot of work over many, many years. What you’re describing is continuing that work and continuing something, that it’s a process. You keep showing up, you keep being creative, you keep doing the work. It seems to me that you’d really have to balance out what the energy is required to do that, with the love that you have for this music and what you can do with it.
Dan Connor: There are times when it’s difficult. I have a lot of days where I don’t feel good. They warned me about that, said, “You won’t feel good all the time.” My brain is constantly changing. It’s healing. Scar tissue is growing from the surgery. There’s a tumor there that’s growing slowly. They can’t actually see it, but they warned me about that, so yeah, there is a balance.
What I really love about it, however, is the process of doing it. That’s what I’ve figured out. It’s not necessarily the end result. It’s the getting there that I’ve really learned to love. It frustrates people, I’m sure, because by the time I’m done with a song and recorded, have done it so much, that I’ve moved on, and my whole thing is, “Yeah, that song is cool, but you gotta hear all this new stuff.” Of course they’re just hearing the things that I recorded and put out for the first time. I don’t want to say I’m necessarily bored with that. It’s more about I want to continue the process of doing it and seeing what happens. That’s where the real love is is doing it. There’s no end for me, I hope.
Lisa Belisle: Dan, we’re going to leave the show with a song that you have written and performed. Tell me about that.
Dan Connor: I really started to think about when I was told of my tumor and of my illness and what that felt like. I sat and thought and wrote and journaled thoughts about it. What came out in terms of the lyrical content and the whole sound was a analogy or comparison of a person who’s a prisoner that’s escaped or that’s trying to escape, and that I really felt as though I was in jail.
It’s the story of a person who hides out in a woodshed, which is where I worked, where my studio was. In the morning they went on the run and they were found in a hotel room hiding out, because they were playing the blues too loud and somebody called the front desk. The cops showed up and the cops arrested me and said, “Son, you better come with me. I’m gonna take you out and set you free.” The police drove me, and this is my surgeon, “I’m gonna set you free,” and they drove me to the desert and set me free and said, “If you survive the desert through the night with no clothes, no water, you deserve to be free.”
In the morning I woke to extreme temperatures, after a long night shivering and being cold, and got out of the desert and started hitchhiking and was picked up by an old man who drove me to the sea. I threw a bottle with a message home and stripped myself of those prison clothes. That’s the analogy of what I’ve been through, from the eyes of a prisoner, and that is set free and makes it and survives.
Lisa Belisle: I’m sure people are going to enjoy this song, and certainly I’m extremely appreciative of the fact that you have made it through all of this and that you have been set free.
Dan Connor: I hope it’s inspiring to people who have everyday struggles and wonder if they can make it through. Whether they have an illness or not, life is hard. If I can help, as an example of just persistence, not giving up. I hope it inspires people.
Lisa Belisle: We’ve been speaking with Dan Connor, who has been an integral part of Maine’s music community for at least the last two decades, probably more. We will continue to look for music from you and really wish you all the best. Thank you for still being here with us.
Dan Connor: Thanks for having me. It’s nice to be here.
Lisa Belisle: You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 303, Musical Healing. Our guests have included Pamela Florea and Dan Connor. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa, and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram.
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Speaker 1: Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music by Spencer Albee. Our editorial producer is Paul Koenig. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy. Our executive producers are Kevin Thomas, Rebecca Falzano, and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine, or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at