BLOG: Healing mentally through music

Katherine Ranzenberger
York Dispatch

I remember one summer that was filled with incredible music and endless dancing. I had just graduated from high school, and I spent three months going around Michigan and the Midwest for music festivals and concerts with my friends.

My friends and I hanging out at the Wheatland Music Festival in Michigan. Little did I know moments later, my life would change forever.

It started at Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan. It was a place filled with hippies and hope. My friends and I went to the nightly dances for a weekend. It was cheaper than going to the full traditional arts weekend, and it was much more fun. Plus, we could go home, shower and sleep in our own beds after a night of getting sweaty with thousands of strangers.

That weekend got me hooked on concerts.

July finally came and Blissfest weekend was here. We packed up Spencer's Prius and drove the 200 miles up to Bliss Township.

We set up the tent, grabbed our water bottles and explored the woods. Along the way, we met tons of new people who were all there to celebrate the musicians and the community that pops up when festivals like that happen.

That weekend would change my entire perspective on the world. More importantly, I found my religion.

There have been multiple scientific studies on how music can affect someone's mood. If you listen to happy tunes, you're more likely to be happy. If you listen to angry music, you're more likely to be angry. You get the picture.

Then, into my life walks My Dear Disco, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, band with a brand new, upbeat, funky kind of sound. The electric guitar riffs mixed with a touch of synth-pop and lead singer Michelle Chamuel's smooth soprano tone made me melt. It created a beat that could make anyone's booty shake. (The band would later change its name to Ella Riot.)

I was hooked. On the music. On the feeling of community with everyone around me. On the night and how it made me feel about the world.

It wasn't until my senior year of college that I would understand why I fell in love with My Dear Disco's sound that night. I took a course called "Rock 'n' Roll and Spirituality." Now, I'm not a religious person by any means. However, I thought it would be interesting to look into what others experienced and what kind of religious connotations are hidden in popular music.

Talat Halman, the professor for the class at Central Michigan University, changed my life yet again, opening my eyes and putting words to the experience I had had five years prior at Blissfest.

A lot of the time, people will go to religion for a sense of belonging. They join because they want to be surrounded by like-minded people. They let a higher power help relieve some stress and anxiety from their life.

For me, I found all those things in the audience of a concert. I found this profound feeling of belonging, this sense of connection with other human beings around me when I went to concerts. Everyone is there in that moment, moving to the beat, singing their lungs out, having the time of their lives.

At the end of the day, I have this connection with hundreds of strangers because we were all there together, celebrating the music that these other humans created.

Going to concerts is like going to church for me. Now, I'm not sure if there are any scientific studies to back this kind of thinking up.

However, I do know that there are studies that say dancing is a great stress reliever and great exercise. And if you can go to a rock show or hip-hop show and not dance, you're probably not actually a person.

It's been a year since my last big concert. Michigan had a killer music scene, and I miss it. I'm looking for things in this area that can bring me back to that place, back to the happiness that music brought me and the closeness to other people it helped create in my life.

If you know of electro-synth rock shows in this area, let me know. Send me an email at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or Tweet at me at @YDKatherine.

I need to get back to church. I need to get back to my happy place. It's about taking care of my mental health.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine