“I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.” We’ve probably all heard that old saying but it may just be more truth than fiction. From what I can see, the kids, and often adults, who play the game are just plain tough!

We’ve just finished up with yet another amazing Winter Olympics. It was back in Russia again this year. The Canadians won the gold again in Men’s Hockey. It is usually either the Russians or the Canadians. The Canadians are our friends but there seems to be a fierce competition between the United States and Russia when it comes to most things but none more obvious than Hockey.

The year was 1980. The place was Lake Placid, New York. The Soviets had won the Gold for the last four Winter Olympics. But… in 1960 the United States team took the Gold for the first time ever, and Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) was left sitting on the sidelines watching. Having trained with the 1960 team for months, he was the last one cut from the roster. His dream of winning never faltered, so when asked to coach the team he was ready. He truly believed he could coach this scraggly bunch of college boys to victory. With no Gold Medal since 1960, no one else believed in his dream.

The first hurdle was picking the team. When questioned about his choices, he said that he wasn’t looking for the best players, he was looking for the right players. In the midst of his year-long training, he was told over and over again that he was working the boys too hard. Many held grudges against their fellow players for tactics in past games. Many were young and didn’t quite want to work that hard. Many just didn’t believe it could be done. It was his almost impossible task to mold them into a winning team.Miracle movie review copy

Miracle is a David and Goliath story in a time when it was badly needed. The Cold War was a cold fact. The world was hurting. The USSR had invaded Afghanistan just a few months before. The Communist way of life threatened the very fabric of the lives of freedom-loving people around the world. Evil was alive and well and rearing its ugly head. This win was more than just a Gold Medal; it was symbolic of victory over our enemy, without a fire being shot.

I loved the poignancy of the wall in the locker room covered in telegrams from well-wishing Americans…even the one that said, “Beat those Commie Bastards”. Like I said before, in 1980, this was more than a hockey game for many. The average age of players on our team was 21. Most of the well-seasoned USSR team had been playing together for 15 years, but as Coach Brooks said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

Throughout their training, Coach Brooks would occasionally ask a player, “Who do you play for?”  They would say the name of their school. When he finally asked the question to one young player and heard the reply, “The United States of America.” He knew he had his team. They learned that the name on the front of the jersey was more important than the name on the back. Coach Brooks gave them not just a chance to dream, but to believe.

Miracle is a great family movie. You can watch it with your kids, your grandkids or alone. Alone might be best, that way you won’t be embarrassed when you jump out of your seat, pump your fist in the air and yell “GO USA.”

As usual, you can email me at Carolyn@rockcliff.com

Up Tight? Loosen up with Music as Tax Time is Upon Us!

Today we encounter stress and anxiety everywhere we go. The vicissitudes of modern life almost predict that disruption of one’s peaceful and calm existence will sometimes be interrupted, many times unexpectedly.  What can we do about it?  Through many research studies, science has proven that listening to or producing calming music can have a positive and lasting impact on relieving stress. How is this accomplished?

It is now well established music releases endorphins (natural opiates that relax us) into the body thereby lessening the stress and anxiety causing our discomfort. In a research study by Marie Helsing at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, she used two groups, one listened to music everyday and the second group spent time relaxing each day without music. The results showed a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, and better overall health in the group that listened to music.

The type of music did not seem to matter as much as whether or not the participants liked the music. The more the participants liked the music, the better the results. Music evokes positive emotions in listeners and therefore is thought to be beneficial for wellbeing and health, reported Helsing.

Current thinking based on scientific research says that making music is just as effective as listening to music. Singing, for example, is a very effective way of easing tension and anxiety. The old bromide of singing in the shower turns out to be beneficial to ones well-being and not just singing to hear your self sing. Singing is a great release of tension.

The soothing power of music is well established. It has a relaxing effect on minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. Music decreases the levels of stress hormones. Calming music before bedtime promotes peace and relaxation and helps induce sleep. As we know, productivity increases when stress is reduced. Music can also relieve depression and increase self-esteem.

Music can be a great aid to meditation, helping to prevent the mind from wandering. Certain music is appropriate for meditation as it can help the mind slow down and initiate the relaxation response. Loud, raucous music can be irritating or unsettling. Gentle music with a familiar melody is more comforting.

Listening to music can lower a stressed patients’ heart rate, reduce the need for anesthesia in surgery, enhance restful sleep, lower blood pressure and boost immune response, to name a few. Relaxation music often uses the sounds of nature on compact discs (CD). Water sounds are soothing and birdsongs are often used as an aid to help release stress.

There is a genre of music specifically designed to relieve anxiety and stress naturally without drugs and pills. It is called healing music and listening to it eases the stress response. Healing music can help people achieve a calmer, more peaceful state of mind. It produces physical changes in the body by alternating brainwave patterns and lowering blood pressure.

There are a few CDs highly recommended for healing music. Music for Brainwave Massage, by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, moves one to a meditative state.

Wind and Mountain, by Deuter, is good for encouraging creativity. Drone Zone, by Kay Gardner, has short songs for relaxation based on a root tone or “drone” that produces a specific vibration within the body. Harmonic Response, by Jim Oliver, produces harmonic tones to which the body responds. Music for Healing, by Steven Halpern, who is a pioneer in the science of sound healing.

Janelle Barlow, Ph.D. of the Stress Reduction Institute says, “Reduction of stress may not only be modern man’s answer to survival but also the key to his expanding potential.”

When you close your eyes and listen to calming music on a daily basis you will be more centered and less venerable to outside pressure. This April, while doing your taxes, play calming music and maybe it will become a less stressful chore.

Mark your calendars for The Danville Community Band’s Annual Blackhawk Museum Concert “A Gallery of Sound” Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. Free concert with museum entrance fee.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net

Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville

Community Band.