Holly Platis, music therapist at Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak, uses music for pain management and relaxation with her patients. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
METRO DETROIT — The COVID-19 pandemic has been painful for everyone.
There are people who have lost loved ones to the virus and those who have been ill with it themselves.
Some businesses are gone forever, while many individuals are struggling to pay their bills due to job loss and unemployment.
Mental health issues have increased, and school districts have gone back and forth on whether or not students should return to school. The list goes on.
Also missing is the socialization between family and friends, including attending live concerts for enjoyment.
For musician Mike McCabe, of Pontiac, the pandemic has shut down his livelihood. McCabe, guitarist for ’80s band Ugly But Proud, is a piano player on Carnival Cruise Line, which has not operated since March. He is doing OK financially though because he is frugal. He does, however, want to set sail and get back to tickling the ivories.
“I miss it terribly. It’s a great job. I play piano, sing and tell jokes,” said McCabe, who entertains with cover songs of classic rock, jazz, classical music and more. “It’s a little bit of everything … from rock to Rachmaninoff, from Sabbath to Sinatra. It’s a lot of fun. I meet people from all over the world.”
McCabe has traveled to Australia, Italy, Spain, France, Aruba, Alaska, Venezuela and Columbia. On the day the cruise line shut down, he had flown to Port Canaveral, Florida, and boarded his designated ship.
“They signed me up, they took my temperature and everyone was just sitting around sanitizing,” McCabe said.
Three hours later, the crew was told they weren’t sailing. “It didn’t surprise me,” he thought. “The custom agents had already gone home. I feel bad for the cruise line.”
McCabe has kept in touch with a lot of the crew members — including engineers, stewards and cooks — who just want to get back to work. Some were forced to find other jobs. In the meantime, McCabe has performed some virtual shows to earn income.
“I do appreciate the people that are supporting the online music industry,” McCabe said.
When bars and restaurants were open last fall, McCabe brought his piano playing skills to perform a few outdoor shows at the Hot Rock Sports Bar and Music Café in Warren.
“They had good crowds,” McCabe said. “People like to go out and hear music and interact. When there is a performance, people go crazy.”
Ugly But Proud still performs on occasion about three to four times a year. One such gig was a Fourth of July party in Oxford last summer with about 200 attendees. He also spent the month of October working as a janitor at Pontiac Middle School.
‘I feel that’s been greatly missed right now’
Whether at home or out at a live concert, listening to music can have a positive effect. Holly Platis, music therapist at Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak, witnesses the benefits of music therapy every day. Platis sings, plays guitar, percussion, piano and ukulele for preemies in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and for cancer patients in the oncology unit. Platis visits patients in their rooms, playing music in hallways and other areas.
“I use music for pain management and relaxation,” the music therapist said. “I help them think that hospitals are a less scary place. It will give them coping skills and distract them from pain and the anxiety of a procedure coming up.”
As for the babies, Platis’ music can help them better adapt to nurses coming in the room, and lights and sinks turning on.
“It’s my favorite compliment when patients fall asleep,” she said. She added that a lot of patients like to listen to Disney music along with “Hamilton” songs, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Etta James and Frank Sinatra.
During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, not being able to go to concerts with people you love can definitely be detrimental for people in general.
“Music can (make people) feel a sense of connection with others,” Platis said. “It can create a cohesion with different viewers. It creates memories.”
One such moment Platis mentioned was a singalong last spring in a neighborhood in Italy that lifted people’s spirits. And any kind of music can be relaxing for anyone of any age.
“They call it their therapy. I feel that’s been greatly missed right now,” Platis said. “Music releases neurotransmitters in the brain. Rhythm can slow your breathing. Your body will start to relax without even knowing it.”
Platis said her “heart breaks” for professional musicians who earn a living playing music.
“This is their livelihood,” she said. “They had trained for years and mastered their skills.”
For those depressed about not going out to concerts or live music venues because of the pandemic, Platis offered the following reminder.
“This is only temporary,” she said. “For now we can use technology, which has been such a blessing to connect with each other.”
In the fall of 2019, Motor City singer/songwriter Jotown suffered a stroke from which he is still recovering. At the time he wrote the song “What Kind Of America (Do We Want To Be?)” He penned the song not only because of his health issues, but also to highlight the political division in the country.
“It’s a healing song, like coming together in the middle. Let’s try to get the best ideas from both sides. Let’s put everything on the table. Most people care about the same things but the politics screws it all up,” said Jotown, who grew up on Detroit’s lower east side and now resides in Rochester Hills. “I love this country. As a country we had to heal. We’ve done it before.”
With bars, restaurants and music venues shut down, Jotown suggests: “Musicians, rethink about what you do. This is an upgrade moment for all artists to get better at your craft. I believe there will be a huge, pent-up demand or appetite for live music.”