Hear the Silence with Jamie Glaser

“I am just like the artists and mentors I’ve had. They don’t think I’m mentally ill, but the normal world might.”

By Helena Domenic

Jamie Glaser is an extraordinary person, even if all you look at is his amazing musical resume.   Jamie plays a variety of electric and acoustic guitars, including his two signature models, a Gelvin JG 2.0 and a Gander Libra.   He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he earned a Bachelor’s degree and studied with great teachers such as William Leavitt and, also,  Don Arnone in New York, prior to college.  Jamie may be best known for his membership in the Grammy Award-winning group, Manhattan Transfer, and working with violinist Jean Luc Ponty.  Jamie is most certainly a consummate musician with many great stories to share.   In conversation, and in his book, Hear the Silence, Jamie shares great wisdom, and insight on dealing with hardship.   Even in 2017, discussing mental illness can be difficult and revealing one’s disability is considered a courageous act.   In Hearing the Silence, Jamie discusses his own road to healing — after the massive 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, his resulting PTSD and the false diagnosis of bipolar disorder — with candor and, often, humor.   More importantly, he shares how he was able to come through the other side of a dark time with others who may need to

Jamie Glaser and friends

hear the message, or rather – the silence.

I was incredibly honored to be asked to interview Jamie for Coreopsis, and I am happy to share our conversation with you.   If you read Hear the Silence or listen to the audiobook (both available here on his website: http://www.jamieglaser.com/store.html), you will read or hear the voice of a deeply gentle and compassionate man.   I was happy to discover that he really is that gracious, modest, and kind.

CMJT: First of all, I want to thank you so much for writing this book.   I don’t want to sound like I am sucking up (although maybe I am) – but I feel as though I want to send copies of your book to everyone I know.   I don’t know how many people realize that they already know everything they need to know in order to be happy, that the knowledge is already inside of them.   As an artist and art educator, I see so many people suffering from bipolar disorder and depression.   

Jamie Glaser: Thank you, Helena, it’s my pleasure and I am honored to talk with you.
It’s been amazingly busy here, and now that Jean Luc Ponty is doing a reunion tour in June, even more so.   I handle all of his social media and it’s become a full-time volunteer job.

CMJT: You have a great capacity for working in more than one area – you write and are also a composer.   Do you consider yourself to be an interdisciplinary musician?

Glaser: I don’t think of myself as anything but fortunate and grateful.   The labels people put on artists as to their style, their way of looking at art, etc., is for journalists, critics, and industry people.   I can tell you that I have been blessed to be inspired by some of the greatest musicians, that have lived, and I have had opportunities that few others have had.   I never forget for a minute how magnificent my life and career has been and is.

CMJT: A question that I so often hear: Do you think artists are especially prone to mental illness? Or are we just more expressive and open to sharing our experiences with others, which makes it seem as though we make up so much of the mentally ill population?

Glaser: You are going to laugh but I think that the mentally ill out there are usually not musicians and artists.   You don’t see guitarists going out with guns and shooting up malls, or painters hijacking planes.

In reality, though artists, musicians, creative people think with their right hemisphere, in my case I’ve been told I’m around 90 percent right hemisphere, 10 percent left.   The former director of mental health for Los Angeles County (the doctor from my book, Dr. Richard Elpers) actually told me I would have trouble surviving without a wife, girlfriend, or partner.   He told me I was not as capable as others of making logical decisions because I was so right-brained.   Of course, as soon as I heard that I went out to prove him wrong.   I don’t like being told I can’t do something.

Funny one day I worked in a million-dollar entertainment office in Los Angeles and the owner asked me to fold brochures.   I started and after an hour the guy told me to stop. Why? Because I couldn’t fold a paper in three …   I wanted to make designs.   I folded them in artsy ways, but to him, it looked like I was a nut and his clients probably would have thought so too.  It’s hard for me to not “create.” I spray the Febreeze can in flowing motions, I always want to find a new way.

The point here is that in therapy I learned that others would see my creative self as nutty, off-the-wall even, and I am just like the artists and mentors I’ve had.   They don’t think I’m mentally ill, but the normal world might.
I don’t think artists are more prone to mental illness, Helena.

CMJT: With that question in mind, have you worked with music therapy at all, or do you consider your everyday work to be a kind of therapy? 

Glaser: Actually you asked before this interview if I wanted to talk about something in addition to my book and yes is the answer.   Today is January 12, 2017, and I have just released a record that I have wanted to do for years.   It’s entitled Happy Road.

You can see this at http://www.happyroadz.com/.   This project is what I call musical medicine and I take the listener through meditation, relaxation and positive thoughts.   It’s very different for me from a musical standpoint and without going into too much detail, the songs were composed based on pictures that are in my meditations.   I have been practicing and teaching meditation since 1978 and it’s one of my greatest blessings in my life.

In World War II the Nazis decided to change music from 432 kHz, which is a multiple of the earth’s vibration, to 440 kHz, which is still the standard today (approved in 1957).   440 was used by them to create CHAOS in the world because it has nothing to do with our planet and its heart.   I did this new album, Happy Road, all at 432 kHz to help people to get centered, find serenity, joy, and peace.

CMJT: That sounds amazing, I look forward to checking it out, and I hope everyone reading this will as well!

I know that you grew up in New York but have spent many years living on the West Coast and now in Utah.   So many artists are influenced by the landscape surrounding them.   Knowing how very different LA is from New York, and how very different Utah can be from the two of those areas – do you find that where you are plays a part in the kinds of work you produce?

Glaser:  I think that I have a bit of guilt in my heart as  I don’t think more like an artist…   I love, adore, and am joyful at being a musician but I look at my work as my job.   Music is the way I go on vacations, buy cars, houses, pet food, toys, and also gives me the attention I so enjoy.   I am one who needs constant validation, and I have gotten it always through music and being a musician.

Truth is, I do whatever they pay me to do.   I have musical training and whatever people need I deliver.   You want your song arranged? OK! You want a guitar solo? OK! You want a song written? Great! And on and on.
It doesn’t matter where I live, especially these days, I make my living composing in my pajamas and a week later the music ends up on the Superbowl.
I am very proud to be from New York, it will always be my home.   My 20-plus years in LA were the best ever, and getting to be a studio musician and to reach the heights I did there is an incredible thing.   I also love Utah with its beautiful landscape, fine musicians, charitable and gentle people, and no traffic, gangs or high prices.   I am happy here as well.

CMJT: I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately, and what helps people to become resilient.   In your book Hear the Silence, you talk about some pivotal experiences with people who changed your perspective and way of thinking, particularly with the young man who had cerebral palsy living on the first floor of your old apartment building.   A lot of people might have had that same encounter, or a similar encounter, and have missed the message of it all together.   What do you think made you particularly able to hear what that young man was truly trying to say? 

Glaser: The simple answer is I was both in need to hear and I was ready to hear.

“For when the disciple is ready the Master is ready also.”

or

“When the Seeker is ready, the Master will appear.”

CMJT: I really loved your stories about animals and communicating with animals.   I have to ask, is your screen name “luckyrecording” in honor of Lucky the chinchilla? I was also really touched to hear about your interactions with the chinchillas, and especially your story of your dog, Bubbles.   I know you have 16 pets now – are there any that travel with you, as Bubbles and Lucky did?

Glaser: Thank you, Helena!!
Yes, my screen name — and a worldwide forum — is named after Lucky the Chinchilla.   You know he turned out to be one of the biggest influences in my life.   I have to laugh just coming from the bedroom with seven chinchillas eating the baseboards, making a mess of everything, funny how I ended up with a house full of rodents and still Lucky is who filled my heart like no other ever did or will again.

Chinchillas

The local police call me the “birdman of Lehi” (the city I live in).   In spring and summer, I take my three green cheek conures (parrots) on my Honda scooter and drive around town with them on my shoulders.   I don’t travel with my animals anymore like in the days of Lucky.

CMJT: Can you tell us about any animal rescues/shelters that you are currently active with?

Glaser:  Yes. This last Christmas I got involved with the ASPCA by giving 20 percent of my CD sales to them, as well as personal donations.   I had been working with chinchilla rescues for the last decade but after watching their commercials during the holidays I decided to support them.   I couldn’t watch those animals depicted being hurt or being out in the cold so I started being more proactive by donating to them.

In the past, I have worked for the Humane Society of Utah and have put my time where my mouth is, but sadly I left that volunteer position because I had problems with how they ran the place, how they treated the animals in their shelters and how they spent their money.   After making a formal complaint I left there.

CMJT: Can you tell us more about the CD? There is a video of your song “Will You Still Love Me,” featuring Nathan Osmond on vocals.   (https://youtu.be/cw1ezhnzq28)

Glaser: I have 16 pets, 2 dogs, 2 guinea pigs, 6 chinchillas 5 birds, Helena, and I was the first person in history to have a chinchilla video on YouTube that wasn’t about pelting them.   I speak around the world about chinchilla care and how to love them.

Fourteen of my 16 pets are rescues, and I’m sure that had lots to do with the song I wrote that Nathan sang.

CMJT: It may seem like an odd question, but do you work with animals using music to communicate with them?

Glaser: Not odd at all, Helena, your questions have all been fantastic and I thank you.
I do indeed play music for my animals and have actually used it lately after noticing that during full moons bad things happen in my house.   There have been accidents, deaths, fights, all kinds of things when it’s full moon time.   I began to practice my guitar in the animal room during those times.   I also bring the birds in to listen to meditative music in my studio because they are the most rambunctious of all my animals, especially in winter when even the UV light I have for them doesn’t give them enough of what they need.   I think that most people would be very surprised how animals love music.   My two dogs Pistol and Bullet are always right under my desk as I do my daily musical chores.   I know they are there for me, but also they have heard music seven days a week for their whole time with me.   I rescued them both when they were around a year old and now they are 13 and 14.

Thank you, Helena for the interview and insightful questions.

CMJT: Thank you so much, Jamie, for taking the time to answer my questions and share a bit of your world with us!

I hope that after reading this interview, readers will want to check out more of Jamie’s music and especially his book, Hear the Silence.   You can visit his website here: http://jamieglaser.com and visit the online store to purchase both the book and some of his recordings.   If you are interested in learning more about animal rescue, be sure to join his forum at: http://luckychinchilla.proboards.com.   If you are interested in adding music to a meditation practice or perhaps beginning a meditation practice, be sure to check out http://www.happyroadz.com/.

Editor’s Note: Just Before publication of this issue of Coreopsis, we received word that Pistol, Jamie Glaser’s beloved dog, has passed on. We, the staff, send our deep condolences on this loss.

Pistol

You can hear some of Jamie Glaser’s music here: https://youtu.be/XImQJpLTIR4

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Helena Domenic is an Associate Professor of Art History and Fine Art at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. She teaches various courses on African Art and art history as well as several studio courses in drawing and painting. Helena holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, and an MA in Art Education from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Helena is also an Elder in the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and has lectured at numerous venues throughout the country, including Pantheacon, Sacred Space, Free Spirit Gathering, Ecumenicon, and many others. She is also an accomplished professional artist and has shown her artwork at a variety of galleries in the United States and abroad, in addition to having published a Tarot deck and book, The Fellowship of the Fool. Helena’s artwork may be viewed at http://www.mythandwonder.com.