• Maren Van Nostrand

Saying Hello with a Piano


David Martello playing for refugees in Ukraine. Photographer unknown.

“I’m saying hello to all those people coming in, and I’m saying hello with my piano,” said German pianist David Martello (from Italy) who played on the Poland side of the Medyka border and sang as people escaped Ukraine (NPR Instagram, March 4, 2022). One of his songs, Beatles' “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away..." felt so right and real. He said people started to gather around him and “leave the bombs behind and go to the music.” There are few things more beautiful than a community joining together like this in times of crisis.

Humans have been gathering to share stories and sing songs literally forever (well, at least since Paleolithic times, 40,000 BP, but it's probably earlier than that). It's not only what makes us human, but it's proven to be one of the best ways to cope with stress and isolation.

The benefits of music itself are practically endless.“Music is one of the oldest forms of spiritual medicine known to humanity…Sound and melody, used as a form of meditation, turn off the thinking mind…turn off the genes that signal stress alerts to our minds and bodies” (Christine Stevens, Music Medicine: the Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself with Sound, p. x).

Multiple studies show music boosts human health, and when it's shared, erases feelings of isolation and creates instantaneous bonds. It's an international language that speaks to thousands and knows no bias or boundary.

Soundfalls Show, 2010, Carnation, WA

Opportunities to experience music in the same space with others is winnowing, and we're not talking about the kind of music that requires lessons, but rather the kind that's born out of any household containing people who can speak or make noise. This shortage of quality connection with others has been a growing problem in our modernizing communities for decades. Isolation itself has risen to the level of epidemic.

The good news is that people are turning more than ever to music as a solution, a medicine. It's "an evidence-based technique for mind, body, heart, and soul-health and healing." It's "woven into our very genomic code and evident even in newborn babies. It tugs at our heartstrings and strikes a chord in our souls" (Stevens p. xi).

Soundfalls Circle, Duvall, WA

In the early 2000’s, I felt a strong need to gather with others in my community but noticed a shortage of opportunities to do so. This unmet need was also affecting my music students and families as well. They expressed how little time they had to play their instruments because of work, the commute, chores, etc. Yet in the same breath they mentioned all the great movies they’d streamed or video games they’d played. I wondered if the real reason for their neglect of music was not time, but rather isolation; that technology was pulling them away from each other when what they really needed was a reason to play...and most importantly, someone to listen.

Rod Williams playing didgeridoo at a Soundfalls Workshop

In response to this cultural trend, and with the help of several friends and volunteers, Soundfalls was created--an organization focused almost solely on lifting people out of isolation and into the shared spaces of each other’s voices in a mutually supportive way. Soundfalls takes this ancient wisdom, which everyone holds, and essentially helps them “remember” it. What inspires them, and why? It’s a kind of acoustic synergism that creates healing, growth, and friendships. Whether it be with a didgeridoo, flute, guitar, or just voice, we help people re-engage with their deeper inner “song” (See How it All Began, since 2006).

How do we gather? There are many ways, and the sky is the limit to what we might host:

  • Big Circles: all people need to do is show up, and the level of exposure can be anything from simply being seen or speaking one’s name, to sharing a thought, to singing or playing a song, to sharing a memory

  • Workshops: chances to experiment with sounds and/or your voice by playing various instruments, doing rounds with traditional songs, or singing folk tunes that most people know

  • Live Acoustic Shows: these are rehearsed to a degree, but still very casual and friendly, usually on stage

For everyone, especially for the more introverted, our gatherings work well to validate and build community, and work wonders for the soul.



Soundfalls Show, 2010, Carnation, WA

My friends of Soundfalls, both new and familiar, now that our immunities are boosted, it appears that we can gather once again! Is there a type of gathering that you are looking for? What do our communities need? As our group hears ideas, we will begin to weave them together to create gatherings, likely beginning this September (2022). If you’re interested, let us know! You need not “perform”. You can just “be”, as those who listen are as important as those who share. Simply share your name and thought here: connect@soundfalls.org

Stay tuned!


Meanwhile, click here to see the artists who've been involved in our productions before. You may know one of them!


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