Feel-Good Friday: The Feel Good Tour Works to Keep the Music Playing for Musicians Devastated by Natural Disasters

Jason DeCrow

In 2005, Bill Hudson and Guy Nouri wanted to help communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The historical sounds of blues, jazz, and country music were silenced during that period, as people struggled to wade through the death and the wreckage, and rebuild their lives.

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The pair rounded up their musician contacts to deliver the healing power of music to broken individuals.

From the Feel Good Tour website:

When Bill gets these ideas, he likes to call some friends and bounce them off of them. He got in touch with Guy Nouri of Dragonfly.com and told him “Wouldn’t it be cool to go down to the devastated areas and play music for the people for free?” He just wanted to play music and let the healing power work it’s magic.

Guy said that he thought it was a great idea. Bill was happy to hear that. He sometimes worries about his ideas. Guy provided funding to help make the trip a possibility. Without Dragonfly.com, this would just have been a crazy idea. We all thank Guy Nouri for having the trust to support this even when there was no real plan.

As Guy and Bill talked up the idea, everyone thought it was a great idea. Bill contacted some of his friends and every one of them said that they would be interested in performing in that area. Fellow Roanoke Virginia musician Al Coffey joined Bill on his first trip, and has been going ever since!

That healing power has been quantified by scientific evidence: from lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol in the body, to alleviating anxiety and improving ones mood. For decades, music’s power to alter the landscape of the human body has been employed through music therapy programs throughout the world.

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“Music therapy is an established form of therapy to help individuals address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs,” [Shilagh] Mirgain, Ph.D said. “Music helps reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and cortisol in the body. It eases anxiety and can help improve mood.

[…]

“Across the history of time, music has been used in all cultures for healing and medicine. Every culture has found the importance of creating and listening to music. Even Hippocrates believed music was deeply intertwined with the medical arts.”

No one knows this better than those who provide the instruments of healing through their talent and skill, and what a desecration it is to lose those physical instruments of not only their own therapy and healing, but the means by which they make a living.

As musicians, Bill and Al were struck with the power of what music does and how it heals. This is really what The Feel Good Tour is all about. If you have ever gone to a festival you might have experienced that the music on the main stages is great but there is much more fun to be had around the campfires afterwards. Well in a way, that is what this is, letting the music speak for itself and heal folks.

While Bill and Al were playing down in Louisiana, they realized another need in the area. They thought maybe they could come up with a way to get musical instruments to both individuals and schools that had been taken away from them by Hurricane Katrina.

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As the poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy penned, “We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams.” Hudson and Nouri widened their mission and worked to supply those replacement instruments to schools, and individuals who had lost so much.

This, in a nutshell is what The Feel Good Tour is all about. Taking the soothing, rousing, healing power of music to places where people need their souls refreshed after a tragedy has struck, and to help the next generation of musicians to realize their hopes.

Seventeen years later, the organization has given over 700 musical instruments to four Gulf Coast schools, one school in West Virginia, and they have partnered with the “In Our Own Backyard” program in Roanoke, Virginia, to supply instruments locally.

After the December tornadoes in Kentucky, The Feel Good Tour partnered with the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour, and on March 18, the joint effort distributed over 700 instruments to musicians in Kentucky.

“There are so many musicians out here, and they lost everything, they lost their home, business, family, friends and livelihoods. What we can do is restore the music and the spirit of home,” said Michael Jonathon, a folk singer who helped organize the event.

Within a few months, they collected hundreds guitars, banjos, fiddles, flutes, pianos and more, all in good condition.

“People were crying when getting a mandolin, a fiddle, or a guitar, or a banjo. There hearts were so moved,” he said.

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Anyone can donate an instrument that is in good, working condition. For schools, band instruments such as brass horns and woodwinds are in high demand, as well as stringed instruments like guitars, mandolins, violins, banjos, cellos, and basses. E-mail the 501c3 organization at [email protected], and they will arrange with the donor how to ship to their home base in Roanoke, Virginia. The Feel Good Tour has received instruments from across the U.S. and even as far as Alaska!

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