12 Feb The Music of Vail House
Personal notes from a talented resident
“Something small can make a real difference in turning your life around. – Luke, Vail House resident”
“My first three months here I kept more to myself. I’d go out during the day often and spent most of the rest of my time in my room, says Luke, a 13-month Vail House resident. “Then we got a keyboard – donated by Vail Place – and that was a turning point. I started to play, which opened things up for me. I became more social and got to know the other residents a lot more.”
Luke is originally from New Ulm, Minnesota, and a family with a passion for music. His mom is one of ten kids. “Her family is basically a choir, and she went on to teach music and direct choirs and is now a therapist.” His grandfather, an early inspiration, built a pipe organ in his basement. The organ was later disassembled by other family members and reassembled in its new home in a church.
Music and creativity have become a big part of Luke’s recovery journey at Vail House and the Vail Place Clubhouse Program. All Luke initially knew about Vail Place was that its Vail House program had a great reputation and it was hard to get into. When he took a tour, he knew right off “It felt right. Like a home.” While staying at the house he learned how creativity was so much a part of the culture at Vail Place and of all the creative offerings of the Clubhouse.
The years prior to joining the Vail House community were a very tough time for Luke. After heart surgery that almost took his mom’s life the fall of 2018 – she’s doing well now – Luke’s life spiraled out of control early in 2019.
“Homelessness, hospitalization, mania, and alcoholism brought me first immediately into treatment, then back into chaos for a while then BACK to treatment again, then toward the end of 2019, I started to find myself again. I entered an IRTS (Intensive Residential Treatment Services) facility. There was actually a broken out-of-tune piano (what are we but broken instruments right? haha) at the IRTS which was one of the only things besides dinner that got me to leave my room back then.”
Talking with Luke you’re struck by his openness, warmth, very bright mind, and outgoing manner. He doesn’t like categorizations, but he considers himself more of an introvert – which doesn’t exclude the pleasure he finds sharing meals (“the food is amazing!”), conversation, and activities with his fellow residents.
“People are always blasting music on the house blue tooth speaker, often singing along when doing dishes as is their privilege. We also have done some house talent shows and have a lot of creative and musical talent within the various residents. And everyone’s contribution is met with genuine, non-judging acceptance, whether they perform, recite a poem, or just share the view from their window. We had someone last time unexpectedly juggling lemons for their talent. ‘When life gives you lemons, juggle them!’ we all joked.”
Music has been the “instrument” that made the last nine months or so a “very different experience” for Luke.
“While keeping to myself for the first three months here I kept on delaying joining the clubhouse because I knew it’d always be there and I’d get to it when feeling more outgoing, but THEN the pandemic hit. I was much more reluctant for months to be introduced to groups and people as a stranger in the online environment, but THEN seeing how well done the Dr. Vail Hour fundraiser that was created during quarantine was, and then finally joining the talent show and seeing the smooth operation as well as the sincere supportive atmosphere of talents both creative and window-view based, THAT was what finally got me to pull the trigger on joining the clubhouse.”
What Luke’s come to appreciate so much in his time with Vail Place is that he’s allowed to be who he is.
“There are rules everyone has to follow, of course, but everyone is encouraged, supported, and given the resources and opportunities to find their individual path.”
“Vail House is a sanctuary,” Luke says. “I often call it sort of a safe haven or purgatory between uncontrollable chaos and a return to the ‘real world.’ It allows me the security to find the healing, stability, and confidence to explore the possibilities that lie ahead for me.”
Luke is so grateful that he’s free to entertain the many possibilities and questions that push through his thoughts. Returning to school to build on his recording and sound engineering degree? Studying abroad? Composing and playing music? Maybe even his big dream of composing film scores? He quickly says that’s not achievable. But why not for a life filled with so much talent and hope?