We’ve got a new interview for you! Today we’re interviewing Adam Jannon-Fischer of The Park Plan and LoFi Delphi! This is our second interview in our new interview series – interviews with musicians who are also wellness workers. Check out our other interviews here.
What’s a wellness worker? By “wellness worker” I mean anyone who works to help others be well in mind, body, spirit, whatever. That may include social workers (like me), counselors, therapists, case managers, doctors, nurses, yoga instructors, massage therapists, life coaches, spiritual leaders, sound healers, and many others. I’m particularly interested in talking to wellness workers who are also musicians, as I believe they’ll offer a very unique perspective on the connection between music and mind.
We’re happy to present our second interview in this new series…
Of Music and Mind Interview: Adam Jannon-Fischer Talks about Music and Being a Social Worker
For Adam, music and the mind are “intrinsically linked.” In The Park Plan, Adam and company write about social injustices. They’re bold but not in-your-face. They take on important issues and study them from multiple perspectives. They’re empathic but not too soft. What’s more? They put on a fucking good show! Tight arrangements, melodic instrumentation, and high-energy rhythm and vocals. When you see them play, you know they love it (and then you love it).
I barely knew Adam prior to doing this interview. (This is despite seeing him play, Trevor photographing him at shows, and knowing of him tangentially through the scene. I think we can blame this on the fact that we’re both quite introverted, as we learned in the interview.) Now I feel like I know him a lot better and it really adds an interesting layer to his music.
Both as a musician and a wellness worker, Adam cut his teeth in Kent and Akron, OH. He was born in Cleveland (his family, save for one brother in Denver, still lives there) and lived in Michigan for a bit before settling in the Kent/Akron, OH area. In 2011, he moved to Pittsburgh and decided to call it home.
Adam plays in The Park Plan and LoFi Delphi, is a multi-instrumentalist, and is a full-time social worker. (He’s got a lot going on!) Getting to know him through this interview has been really fun. I learned a lot about him and was reminded of some really important aspects of social work and music. As you read through this interview, you’ll find yourself thinking, smiling, and feeling inspired!
You can see Adam with The Park Plan at (the wonderful) Cedars in Youngstown, OH on March 24th with the excellent bands (and people of) Lake Lake, and Between the Witches. This is going to be such a good show. Youngstown Friends, get there! [This might be a good time to note that Jenn – Adam’s wife and bass player in The Park Plan – is one of my favorite bass players of all time. Just sayin’.] Then, you can see Adam’s debut performance with LoFi Delphi at The Stage at Karma in Pittsburgh, PA on April 6th with Donora, The Telephone Line, and Balloon Ride Fantasy. Whoa, what a lineup!
Adam Talks about Being a Musician
We talked about Adam’s life as a musician.
What bands are you in right now?
[Check out some videos below! The first video features The Park Plan with new vocalist Jess Klein. The second video is The Park Plan prior to Jess Klein, and featuring Adam on lead vocals. The third video is LoFi Delphi prior to Adam joining. We’ll have to add some video with Adam once it exists! Thanks to Lauren Stein and Punksburgh for the videos!]
Any old bands you want to mention?
What instruments do you play?
Guitar, bass, piano, vocals, tiny bit of dobro and pedal steel.
Which instrument do you consider to be your main instrument?
Guitar and bass.
What does music mean to you?
Music serves as the connective tissue between our current selves and the rest of humanity. It crosses cultures, geographic locations, and even time. It makes you feel something, and reminds you that someone has probably felt that way too. Maybe it was an Austrian Harpsichord player in the 17th century, or maybe it’s Bikini Kill. Wherever you are when you hear it, you know in some small way, someone at some point totally got the way you are feeling right now.
Tell me the story of how you got into music.
I grew up with it. My dad had guitars around and I was interested in them pretty much right away. My family was very supportive of it. I learned on my dad’s guitars. That’s why I’m a lefty that plays guitar right-handed. It’s what I had to learn on.
How long have you been a musician?
I started taking guitar lessons when I was 8 or 9. I’m not sure exactly when I became a “musician,” but I’ve always wanted to be exactly that.
What are some of the challenges you experience as a musician?
It is difficult to reconcile the desire to be unique and play something new with the fact that everything you do is the sum of all of your influences, whether you acknowledge that or not. It’s a frustrating medium, where perfection is a mathematical impossibility. No one ever gets to be “the greatest” at anything. This is the exact opposite of everything else we are taught about any other pursuit.
What inspires you to keep playing music and performing?
It just plain old makes me feel better. Music is absolutely exhilarating.
What else would you like to share about yourself?
I’m horribly shy and frequently taciturn. I’m always worried that other musicians I meet at shows interpret this as “standoffish” or arrogant. For anyone reading this, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for that public persona.
[This is great! I know that so many musicians who are introverted – or just shy – struggle with the social aspect of music, particularly social networking and marketing.]
Adam Talks about Being a Social Worker
We talked about Adam’s life as a social worker.
What do you do?
I am a Licensed Social Worker, specializing in Oncology. My elevator pitch for “what I do” is that I troubleshoot barriers to treatment. For example, coming to the hospital or doctor’s office (and the subsequent copayments) occurs maybe once or twice a year. When someone undergoes chemo and radiation, suddenly they are coming once a week, or even once a day. All of a sudden those copayments are unmanageable, and people will sometimes consider forgoing treatment because of that. I try to locate resources or unaccessed benefits (such as Agent Orange compensation for Veterans) to alleviate that somewhat. Other barriers might be regular and reliable transportation.
Beyond that, a big part of what I do is support for patients and their families. Whether it’s terminal or not, cancer is a life-changing and terrifying diagnosis.
What other kinds of wellness work have you done?
Previously, I worked in Hospice and Palliative Care. It is amazing work. I truly loved it. Working with patients who are imminently dying (and their families) has a way of rapidly dispensing with all of the walls, facades, and bullshit we as people like to surround ourselves with. Despite the sad nature of imminent death, there’s something beautiful that happens in those moments. Sometimes a rare time when someone truly shows who they are, or even who they wished they had been. It’s a time for frankness and vulnerability, and the trust that someone is putting in me in those moments is not something I take lightly.
What inspired you to go into this field of work?
I took a serpentine route through academia and life in general. Once I had graduated from college (the first time), I was just kind of playing music and working here and there. I used to say my “gift” was availability during that time.
I had a good friend who was a member of the clergy, and people often came to him with various needs around the community. One day, he became aware of an individual moving out of a shelter and into an apartment. We knew another friend who was moving and needed to get rid of an apartment full of furniture. We borrowed a van and took the furniture from donor to recipient. That person told someone else, and that person contacted us for help when they were leaving the shelter. We did our best to find donations by asking around, and helped them out too.
It snowballed from there, and eventually we decided to concentrate our efforts specifically with women and children escaping domestic violence. Sometimes, this was a matter of delivering donated furniture in hopes to allow families to start over in fully furnished apartments. Sometimes this meant accompanying them into their old homes so they could retrieve what was irreplaceable. Baby pictures, and things like that. We did this both to lighten the workload, and to hopefully discourage their abuser from potentially attacking them.
[I’d be remiss as a social worker for victims of domestic violence if I didn’t include some domestic violence safety planning info here. Check out The National Domestic Violence Hotline for some good information. They can also connect you to your local program in the U.S.]
As you can imagine, these were pretty intense times of crisis for these women and families, and there I was sitting in the middle of it with them, completely unequipped to provide intervention of any level higher than just “being there.” I wanted to be of greater help, so eventually I went back to school to be a social worker.
That service we were providing eventually grew into a full-fledged non-profit, and I ended up working at the domestic violence shelter that we partnered with the most. By the time I was finishing my Social Work degree, my interests turned to medicine. I hope to also do individual counseling someday, too.
The fact that this non-profit exists is the thing I am most proud of. By the time I left the area, we had moved over 200 families.
What is your educational background?
I originally went to Eastern Michigan University to study literature, and had planned to teach. I transferred to Kent State, changed my major to History and finished up my degree there. I stuck around there for a couple of years, and then went to University of Akron, where I got a second bachelors and a masters degree in Social Work.
What do you find to be most challenging about this field of work?
I’m both introverted, like to please people, and hate confrontation. Social Work is a very confrontation-heavy line of work that requires you to engage with people, and often be the bearer of bad news. I’m the face of a society or system that’s letting them down, and the one saying it’s time to change course. There’s a lot of acknowledgement that I’m presenting several options that all suck, but they’re the only options we have. It’s easy to leave at the end of the day feeling like you haven’t done anything good for anyone, even though “good” was the only thing you were trying to do.
What do you find to be most rewarding about this field of work?
People put their trust in you. Maybe it’s just as a momentary confidant, but I think that’s a pretty special thing. Especially in the times we find ourselves currently. There’s very little to trust, and few incentives to trust anyone or anything but ourselves.
What advice do you have for others who are interested in pursuing this field of work?
Take careful stock of your boundaries, and hold tight to them. They are ultimately the only thing between you and burning out.
What advice or encouragement do you have for people who are interested in seeking help?
Humanity is ugly, but people are good. Our culture is designed to discourage you, but you can beat it.
As Fred Rogers once quoted his own mother, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
It’s simple, but true, and easy to forget. Seek help when you need it. We’re all in this together, and each other is all we’ve got. Loneliness and suffering are the only real enemies.
Adam Talks about Music and the Mind
We talked about how music and the mind are connected.
Do you think that music and the mind are connected?
Yes. I’d say “intrinsically linked.”
Music is one person, or group of persons putting what is on their mind out there in some kind of tangible but otherwise inexpressible form, to connect with another person or group of persons’ minds in a way that cannot otherwise be articulated. It’s feeling. It’s medicine via hive mind.
How – if at all – does music influence your life as a wellness worker?
For me, it’s about self-care. Listening to music is restorative, and playing it is cathartic. I deal with a lot of intensity. Without that thing to connect with, or express through, I’d be messy. The day will come when I decide to stop playing music, but as a listener I will always need it in order to cope even on the most basic level.
How – if at all – does your field of work influence your life as a musician, or your music in general?
There’s a lot of injustice, and I’ve chosen a field that attempts to address injustices. However, like any large and lofty concept, it is difficult to see what impact you make, if any. But you have to keep your eyes forward and keep trying, because the minute you quit, you forfeit your seat “being part of the solution.” That leaves me with a lot of anger and sadness. Being a person that already struggles with depression, and has for as long as I can remember, I think I take that feeling of seeming futility to heart. Music at that point is a pressure relief valve, and a place of safety.
How can other wellness workers better support musicians?
Keep working toward better mental health support as a society. Artistic expression is often the greatest source of frustration along with being the greatest sense of relief. I think that may be why we see a lot of suicide among artists and musicians. The thing that makes you feel better is also the thing that makes you feel bad about yourself. This negative feedback loop can lead to some pretty dark places.
What can musicians do on their own to better support their own wellness?
Reach out. There’s enough proof in music that no matter what you are feeling, you don’t feel that alone. You’re not the first to feel it. You won’t be the last. Someone somewhere gets it. Look for the helpers.
Adam Talks about More Stuff
Here’s some other interesting stuff that Adam talked about in the interview. These are interesting topics and things we’ll be exploring in Of Music and Mind.
I’ve been really into this podcast lately, “Cocaine and Rhinestones.” It’s about the history of country music in the 20th century. I’m not particularly a fan of country music, but I find the podcast fascinating in and of itself. In particular, one episode discussed this guy, Arthur Miles, who employed something akin to Tuvan Throat Singing. Given what is known about his life and available recording techniques at the time he was active, it is incredibly unlikely that he would have heard about or known about that singing style in Tuva or Mongolia. It’s more likely that he somehow discovered it on his own, independent of the centuries it had previously been in practice. I love this idea of musical styles and techniques that span time and place, and may not have an obvious connection. Unconnected entities discovering methods of expression independently from one another’s influence really speaks to the idea of the humanity we share regardless of culture, background, time and/or place. I would love to learn and discover other instances of this.
Thanks so much to Adam for taking the time and energy to talk about these important issues! I really enjoyed this interview! Do you relate to what he shared? What do you think? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page. Remember to check out Adam in The Park Plan and LoFi Delphi and reach out for help if you need it.
Coming up! More interviews (yay) and some new mid-week content (what?!). Be well!