Editor's note: Jon Regen (shown at left) is Editor-at-Large of Keyboard magazine, and
responsible for planning all the music lessons authored by top players that you see every month. He's also an accomplished musician in his own right as are all of Keyboard's contributors. Normally, we prefer not
to "toot our own horn" and showcase the accomplishments of our staff. However, we found Jon's story below to be very inspiring and thought that it might be so to anyone in a similar situation to the family health crisis he describes. It's a very personal memoir of how music can aid in healing and ultimately how triumph can arise from tribulation. --Stephen Fortner, Editor in Chief
In November of 2011 after I returned from a
tour of Europe with my band, my father Martin Regen (now 74) was diagnosed
with kidney and lung cancer simultaneously.
He had successfully battled prostate cancer a
decade earlier, so needless to say my family was worried that the outcome
this time around might not be as positive.
We reached out to my uncle Ron Regen, who
had been a patient of Dr. Oz in a weight loss program a few years back.
My uncle Ron wrote to Dr. Oz, who wrote my uncle back immediately,
offering optimism and recommending two doctors for
my dad to see.
From the beginning, Dr. Gaynor was nothing
but upbeat and optimistic. He told my father that he would beat both
cancers, and immediately began a plan to get him stronger. He got my
father, a lifelong drinker, to quit booze cold turkey
(he hasn't had a drink since November 2011), put him on a daily regimen
of herbs and supplements, and made him believe he would get better.
Gaynor monitored both my dad's upcoming surgery for kidney cancer with
Dr. Benson, and also recommended that my father
consult with Dr. Jeffrey Port at New York/Cornell (http://weillcornell.org/jeffreyport/) for his lung cancer surgery as well.
My father had his kidney cancer surgery in
January of 2012, and later, his lung cancer surgery in May of 2012,
where Dr. Port removed a rare six-and-a-half-pound tumor from his lung.
Over a year later, (and after two long and
difficult recoveries), all of my father's scans have been clear. So
needless to say, my family is immensely grateful to the entire team of
Doctors Benson, Gaynor and Port for helping restore
my Dad's physical and emotional well being.
But that's just the first part of the story.
When I found out the concert was to benefit
the Huntsman Cancer Institute, all of the emotions I experienced during
my Dad's illnesses came flooding back into my memory. I thought, "What
if I could write a song to premiere at my
concerts that could champion that same sense of hope we all tried to
instill in my Dad during his own battles with cancer?"
I remembered that every time I hoped for
something, my father would say to me "My bets are on you." So that
became the battle cry of the song, just like we told him all the time in
the hospital, "You will beat this."
After writing a first draft of the song, I
reached out to my friend Dan Wilson, the brilliant songwriter behind
Adele's "Someone Like You," Semisonic's "Closing Time," and countless
other hit songs. Dan helped me connect even more
with the feelings that made me write it in the first place. He made the
Dan and I finished the song on the phone the
Thursday night before my Sundance concerts. The next day, I recorded it
in my New York City apartment. By the time I got to Utah two days
later, it was finished.
The song is called "Stay," and it reminds me
that family, friendship and hope can help you through even the toughest
And so the circle was complete – so I thought.
On March 26th of 2013, I got a call from Dr.
Gaynor's secretary, which scared the hell out of me. I was hoping it
wasn't bad medical news.
He got on the phone and said, "I loved your
song 'Stay' so much I think we should record an album together. I want
to record a CD with my crystal bowls and I want to put some synthesizer
and other sounds on it."
Gaynor (shown at left) is an expert in the field of sound
and healing, and he uses it in his practice regularly. He plays singing
crystal bowls in addition to providing traditional medical treatment, as a form of therapy for patients with a wide variety of illnesses.
In 1991, Dr. Gaynor took care of a Tibetan monk with a serious illness
at Cornell Hospital. He helped turn his condition around markedly.
When the Monk saw Gaynor for his follow-up visit, he gave Gaynor a Tibetan metal singing bowl. Gaynor was so taken with how the sound resonated with him – after going to India
30 times and studying meditation for years, he started investigating the science behind it.
But for me, the gift is that that this music came from a pure
place – I wanted to help the doctor that helped save my dad's life.
Now, I'm a singer/songwriter with a degree
in straight-ahead jazz piano. I've accompanied musicians like Jimmy
Scott and Kyle Eastwood, released six albums of jazz and pop on
my own with guests like Benmont Tench, Martha
Wainwright, and Andy Summers, and written pop songs with Rob Thomas. I'm
about as far from a "New Age" keyboardist as one could imagine.
But I'm a musician with open ears, and
Gaynor saved my father's life. So I was going to make this happen. If
for no other reason, because he deserved it.
This was a day before I was scheduled to
leave for Los Angeles to play a record release show. Plus, I didn't even
have a full-size keyboard in my apartment, as I had just sold mine with
plans to upgrade. I only had my Steinway piano,
my recording rig, and an Akai LPK25 mini travel keyboard that I use in
hotel rooms to write on when I'm on the road. (http://www.akaipro.com/lpk25)
So I said to Dr. Gaynor, "Come on over. Let's try."
Gaynor came over to my 282 square
foot studio apartment that night with 20 or so crystal bowls and I
positioned him around a vintage Neumann U47 microphone I had recently
bought that used to belong to John Lennon. (https://twitter.com/jonregen/status/329953214843715585/photo/1)
He would play the bowls into the microphone, calculating the precise
frequencies and bowls to use for each track. I would then add sampled
tablas, choir, and other sounds, along with sound effects like rain and
By the end of the evening, the album was finished. Gaynor called it Change Your Mind. Ten days later it was up on iTunes.
I went to Los Angeles to play a show the
next day, and when I returned a few days later, Gaynor was buzzing with
excitement. He had played the tracks for his patients and they loved it.
"We have to do three more albums!"
So he came over a few more times over the
next two weeks, and we assembled three more albums the same way. Gaynor
would play his bowls and sing melodic and rhythmic fragments to me,
which I would interpret and embellish. Then he would
leave and I would finish the albums on my own. The next two would be
called Uplift and Peaceful Sleep.
So by late April, all three albums were
finished and available online, put up through my manager Steven Rosen
and my lawyer Larry Katz's record label DPM Records.
Dr. Gaynor was invited onto a taped a
segment for the Dr. Oz Show, but we heard nothing back in terms of if
and when it might air. I left for a three-week tour of Europe with my band,
and heard nothing else about the music or the show.
Until July, that is, when Dr. Gaynor wrote me and said he heard the show was to air Monday July 15.
That morning I went onto
Dr. Oz's website and looked at the SoundCloud player with clips from our
album. Each track had around 200 plays or so. This was before the show
I waited for my girlfriend to come home for
dinner. Just as we started to eat, almost as a joke, I decided to check
the iTunes charts.
Change Your Mind was at number 10 on the main Top
Albums chart. Then 7. Then 6. And finally at number 4--with the likes of Jay
Z, Justin Timberlake, and ahead of Kanye West.
The week of July 22, we debuted at number 1 on the Billboard New Age chart and number 67 on the Billboard Top 200.
If that's not Karma, I don't know what is.
Jon Regen, August 2013