Back in March 2015 we featured an article about how playing the saxophone can improve your health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
For Sax School member Michael Bishop, that article really struck a chord. He contacted Saxophone Life Magazine recently to tell us his story.
In the winter of 2010, Michael fell on ice outside his home and suffered a life-threatening head injury.
He lost two years’ of memory, and experienced mood swings and depression, and doctors warned him that he could be left with long term problems such as bipolar disorder.
“Something like that really makes you re-evaluate,” says Michael. “That first year after my accident was really tough.”
Then three years ago, on their wedding anniversary, Michael’s wifebought him a saxophone.
“I’ve always loved the sax,” says Michael, “and I just had to learn to play it.” After a few months Michael joined Sax School.
Michael found that playing the saxophone helped with some of his symptoms. He felt calmer and less anxious when he was practising.
Recently, Michael was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His neurologist carried out tests to see how his brain was recovering five years on from the accident.
“They did various scans, looking at my brain and the neurological connections, and checking for problems such as blood clots,” says Michael.
But what they found amazed both Michael and his medical team.
“They told me I have seven times as many neurological connections than I had 3 years ago!” says Michael. He also did an IQ test, and his score was significantly higher.
“The doctors said that the left hand and right hand sides of my brain are working together more effectively,” explains Michael. “This was particularly in the areas associated with memory, creativity and abstract thinking.”
“I have seven times as many neurological connections than I had 3 years ago!”
The medical team were amazed, until Michael explained that he played the sax. “They said it all made sense from what we know about music, from scientific studies. Musicians’ brains are different from those of non-musicians,” says Michael.
Michael admits that he practices sax more than the average person. “I do play a lot, maybe up to 6 or 7 hours a day!”
Michael’s doctor explained that the more you do an activity, the more active the neurons in the brain become. It is not just significant that Michael has more connections, but it is where those connections are which is important.
“I didn’t want to take medication, because I was worried about side-effects,” says Michael. “But the doctors have told me that playing the sax is better than any medication, certainly at the moment. It is also great for helping me to deal with stress.”
Michael will be performing his first live gig in November, in Arkansas, after being encouraged to audition by friends and family. “I’m hoping to play live more in the future, in restaurants and busking in the street,” says Michael. “I’m feeling so much more confident.”
Got your own story?
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About the author:
Clair Wright is a writer and music lover based in Yorkshire, England.