By BETSY BETHEL, For The Times Leader “Listen to the doctor.” Your mother said it; your children or spouse tell you, too. Heck, even the Doobie Brothers said it in their 1989 hit single “The Doctor”: Music is the doctor It makes you feel like you want to Listen to the doctor Just like you ought to Music is the doctor Of my soul. Wanda Haught of Moundsville can relate. After Haught’s husband of 33 years died a year ago, she was feeling distraught and visited her physician for some advice. “The doctor said, ‘Take music or take pills.’ I chose music,” said Haught, 85, who takes keyboard lessons at C.A. House Music in St. Clairsville from Jim Gorby. “It relaxes you. If you play, you feel like you can go ahead and face the day,” Haught said. The?Rev. Ron “Big Daddy” Williams, a 63-year-old traveling biker minister from the Wheeling area, also takes lessons from?Gorby because playing music relaxes him and gives him a sense of accomplishment. He took piano lessons at age 5 or 6, he said, and it “was a lost cause.” He later played trombone but never wanted to play an instrument with keys ever again because of his past experience. “If someone would have ever told me I would be playing, I would never have believed it,” Williams said. The key, Williams said, is Gorby’s method of teaching. “I must see how something operates. Back then, it was ‘This is a note, and that’s the way it is.’ I did not fit into that mold,” Williams said. Gorby uses E-Z Play music books by Hal Leonard that feature color-coded notes in large print with the name of the note incorporated, so learners can pick up a song quickly. The most important skill he teaches, Gorby said, is how to play without looking down. “In the first 21 days, if they don’t look at their hands, they’ll never have to. It’s like the brake pedal in a car. “You never look for the brake pedal; you don’t have to. You instinctively know where the notes are when you read music,” Gorby said. Once a player learns to find middle C on a keyboard by touch — without looking — they pick up the music so much more quickly, Gorby said. He also likened it to typing:?“If your typing teacher said you could look down at your hands whenever you wanted, you would never have gained speed,” Gorby said. “They amaze themselves,” he said of his students. With more than two decades of experience in music stores and teaching music, Gorby has led a lot of students to that “eureka moment.” “I just love the reaction on their faces when the light bulb goes on.” Gorby teaches between nine and 14 classes a week at C.A. House, depending on the time of year. Each class averages five to seven people, and he starts a new class of beginners every three to four weeks. He has day and evening classes, and the focus is on students in their 50s and up who have time on their hands because they are empty-nesters or retirees. The Moundsville native grew up around music, playing piano in a square dance band with his father, Ivan Gorby, a fiddler who, at 97, still picks up his instrument to play once in awhile. He worked for both Lowry and Fletcher organ retailers in Florida and Kentucky for more than 20 years before coming back to the Ohio Valley to be near his father. Discussing the “feel-good” aspect of playing an instrument, Gorby said Fletcher was part of a large study called the Music Making and Wellness Project in the 1990s, which found a marked increase in human growth hormone, serotonin and melatonin among people who make music. “Most significant in the study was that the blood tests of those taking lessons indicated a 90 percent increase during the test period in levels of Human Growth Hormone, which normally decreases at a rapid rate as one ages. Higher hGH levels will increase energy and sexual function, while decreasing the occurrence rate of illnesses related to aging. Those not taking lessons showed very little change in hGH levels during the same time frame,”?according to Midori Koga, associate professor of piano and piano pedagogy at the University of Toronto who reported on the study for the Music Teachers National Association Inc. “So just participating in lessons makes you feel better and healthier for it,”?Gorby said. Haught said she plays “in the morning, at midnight, at 3 o’clock ... whenever I feel like I’m going down.” She never played an instrument before and prayed before her first lesson that “the teacher wouldn’t be mean or nasty.” “He wasn’t,”?she added. “Jim’s been great.” Both Haught and Williams said they most enjoy playing hymns, and that they have played in front of friends and family. Williams has played at churches he and his wife, Norma, visit through his Loud Pipes for Christ ministry. Williams said he discovered Gorby during visits to C.A. House to buy percussion items for his ministry band. He heard the music coming from the back room where Gorby holds lessons, and he observed eight or 10 times before he committed to coming. “I asked Jim if he thought I could ever learn to play it, and he said if you want to play it, you can play it,”?Williams said. He upgraded form a used keyboard to a nicer Yamaha model and has become a believer. “I love it. I play it morning and evening and during the day. It’s my type of learning, too. I must hear it in my head before it ever comes out of my hands. I’m very tactile.” Through taking lessons, he has come to like music he didn’t think he would. During a recent lesson, Williams sat down at a large, elaborate organ he calls “The Mac Daddy” and played Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” “Learning a song, it gives you a sense of completion. It just comes alive once you play it,” Williams said. He added that after having two knees replaced 14 months ago, learning to play over the past six months has helped him in his recovery. “This has been great therapy,” he said.
Wanda Haught, 85, of Moundsville, plays “Kumbaya” on an organ at C.A. House Music in St. Clairsville while Jim Gorby gives her instruction. Learning to play has helped Haught weather a tough year following the death of her husband. It was her doctor who recommended she learn an instrument to help her cope.