Amy Lott’s healing music message, from Mississippi to world
MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — Several decades ago, when Amy Lott was a child, she sat down at a piano at Annabelle Boyd’s home in Meridian and hit a note.
It could’ve been an F sharp, or a B flat — she likely doesn’t remember — but that one note resonated from the old upright piano, moved through the young girl’s body, traveled through her nerves and landed deeply in her bones and heart.
That note started a melody that would carry Lott from Meridian to various venues and theaters around the state, to college in Hattiesburg, a festival in Europe, and in September, to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City.
And, it would take time, but that tune would speed her recovery after a vehicle accident left her with a debilitating neurological disorder when she was a teenager.
Now 41, Lott is sharing her message about the transformative and healing power of music, and how it’s helped her persevere and stay optimistic in the face of adversity.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
“I was a pretty hopeful kid,” Lott recalled while sitting on a bench at Dumont Plaza in Meridian on a crisp Saturday afternoon. “I thought I’d be at Carnegie Hall or on Broadway.”
After learning piano, Lott took up the clarinet at age 11, soon finding she had an affinity for the woodwind instrument. By high school, the young musician was competing all over the South and playing in the Lion’s Band of Mississippi. As a 10th grader, she was already taking lessons from a clarinet professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.
But Lott’s musical path was slightly derailed at age 15 after a car accident left her with epilepsy. For most of her 20s, recurrent seizures would make it hard for her to function, much less play music.
“Fifteen years ago, I didn’t think I’d be breathing the next morning,” Lott says of her worst days. “I didn’t dream. They told me when I was 18, I wouldn’t make it past 26.I was pretty at peace that I wasn’t going to be an old woman.”
But she kept playing, taking her clarinet along during hospital stays.
“My mom would have to take the clarinet out of the bed with me,” she says. “I would go to sleep with it.”
“If I hadn’t been still at it, I don’t think I would’ve recovered at all,” she says. “They’re finding in studies now that it actually puts your brain back together when you play.”
Eventually, when Lott was 30, a new epilepsy medication became available that was the right fit for her. Seizure-free for a decade, her path is much clearer than it was two decades ago.
A NEW ROAD
A few years ago, Lott’s talents — she also plays accordion, harmonica, flute and sings — gained the attention of musician Drew Young, who invited her to perform on his show “The Porch Sessions.” Young encouraged her to go to South by Southwest, a festival in Austin, Texas, and in July, Lott played a set at the Maverick Festival in England.
In September, Young joined her on the trip to New York City, where she sat on a panel for the United Voices of Peace at the United Nations headquarters.
The trip was an easy sell to Lott, who knows a thing or two about the healing power of music.
“What does music have to do with peace? It calms people down,” she says with a smile. “It attacks your sympathetic nervous system — that’s a researched fact. And it slows your heartbeat down. Music is a soothing thing.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
With her epilepsy under control, and a huge network of family, friends, fellow musicians and supporters, Lott is optimistic about the future. She’s got several projects in the works, including an upcoming songwriting session with folk legend Peter Yarrow, who was in Meridian recently to perform at the MSU-Riley Center.
Lott also has her sights set on something bigger. She’d like to see special music rooms in children’s hospitals, where young people can, like her, discover that music isn’t just for entertainment, it can also be therapeutic.
It’s a lot (so to speak) to take in for the musician, who wasn’t sure she’d be even be here, much less spreading her passion for the arts.
“I didn’t even have the capacity to dream about what’s happening to me right now,” she says, her smile widening.
Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com