Music : Martha's Vineyard's tireless Rob Myers follows a positive path
File photo by Ralph Stewart
Recently at The Pit Stop, musician Rob Myers demonstrated a 21st century version of the one-man band. Using a loop pedal — a digital sampling device operated with a foot pedal — he was able to lay down tracks on a variety of instruments and play them back simultaneously while accompanying himself on vocals to create a full band sound.
Live sound mixing of this type has become Mr. Myers's latest obsession. Or, more accurately, one of his latest obsessions. The West Tisbury resident generally has at least two or three projects under way at any given time. He is hoping to combine two interests to create a performance that will incorporate music and a new discipline in self-healing called Positive Psychology.
Mr. Myers is currently taking an instructor's training course in Positive Psychology through the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Western Mass. The 10-month course includes two on-site immersion workshops and a series of online modules. The certificate course is led by bestselling author and professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught classes on Positive Psychology at Harvard. According to Mr. Myers, Mr. Ben-Shahar has most recently incorporated a physical component into his teachings and the group of 160 students currently enrolled in the Kripalu course are the first to study this groundbreaking innovation.
Treather Gassmann, an actress, musician and M.V. Public Charter School teacher who is also taking the course, brought the opportunity to Mr. Myers's attention.
For his final project, a 20-minute demonstration, Mr. Myers plans to perform some of his new music. His latest CD will incorporate the teachings of Positive Psychology. So far, he has all the song titles and sketches of ideas, as well as the lyrics to a song called "Chip Away," about finding one's core self. One of the songs that Mr. Myers performed at The Pit Stop is based on a Hawaiian prayer, another used a D.H. Lawrence poem as lyrics. All of the songs will relate to the principles of Positive Psychology and will be created using the multi-instrumentalist's newly learned sound-mixing techniques.
Mr. Myers's ultimate goal is to create a performance piece using music and teaching. "I want the show to be less of a collection of songs and more of a talk and some music and having a narrative run through the whole show, so there's a story going on," he said recently. The idea is to use his musical talents to reach people while entertaining his audience. "My challenge all along has been to keep it from being cheesy and preachy," he said.
Another advantage to his unique approach to teaching is the possibility of encouraging movement, a basic principle of Mr. Ben-Shahar's teaching. "He insisted that they create a model that included a body/health aspect," Mr. Myers said of his teacher, a former squash champion.
"My ultimate goal is to be able, on my own, to get 200 people in a room to get up and dance their asses off to a song," Mr. Myers said. The use of the loop pedal will enable him to create, as a solo performer, a groove and the full sound of a band that he hopes will inspire dancing. His performance is titled, "Ivory Tower to the Dance Floor: An Introduction to Positive Psychology."
Beginning as early as January, when the CD should be completed, Mr. Myers would like to begin a tour. His idea is to bring his performance to non-traditional venues like yoga facilities, wellness centers, and YMCAs. This will be quite a departure for the in-demand musician who has for years been playing in bars.
Since moving to the Island from Lincoln in the 90s, he has been involved with a number of musical collaborations, including Kahoots, a popular local band that he co-founded 17 years ago. The tireless musician currently plays with a handful of local bands — some of whom he helped form — on a number of instruments and in a variety of musical genres.
Mr. Myers doesn't limit his creative output to music. He is an actor who has performed in productions by the Island Theatre Workshop, The Vineyard Playhouse, and Shakespeare for the Masses. He also recently acted in the latest movie by local screenwriter/director Taylor Toole.
To others, Mr. Myers is best known as an event organizer. Among other projects, he planned and executed a very successful Haiti benefit two years ago. He also created and produced the popular Best Fest — a multi-media event that has run for three years now. More recently he helped with the planning of the sold-out Breast Fest fundraiser at Dreamland.
Mr. Myers, who is also a DJ and radio talk show host, was instrumental in the launching of independent radio station WVVY. He is also very involved with The Pit Stop Collective, which opened as an entertainment venue and multi-use space last winter, and he is currently helping to get the Adrenaline Music Project up and running at the YMCA of M.V.'s teen center.
And the list goes on. If there's an alternative event taking shape, chances are Mr. Myers is involved and almost always he contributes his time and talents on a voluntary basis. Eventually, he hopes to start an event planning venture and is looking for investors.
One might expect such a prolific multi-tasker to be a bundle of frantic energy, but Mr. Myers hardly fits that description. He speaks in a calm, thoughtful manner. And, unlike many idea-a-minute types, he actually follows through on many of his projects. He is good at calling in his connections and delegating responsibility.
Friends often wonder how he finds the time to balance all these initiatives. "A lot of people ask me how I have the energy to do all these projects," he said.
"A lot of it is because I almost died or became paralyzed a few years ago when I fell off a ladder very high up on a shingling project. The accident had the silver lining of forcing me to ask myself every day what would matter to me about my life if I were laying on my death bed — which I was."
Now he's hoping to help others find fulfillment in their lives by sharing his new-found skills.
"I can tell you how to be happy in less than 20 minutes," he said. "I can condense the essence of Positive Psychology into a two-minute blurb. That's the good news. The bad news is it's going to take the rest of your life and it's going to be very difficult."
"Ivory Tower to the Dance Floor: An Introduction to Positive Psychology," 12 noon, Sunday, Dec. 23, Yoga Haven, Vineyard Haven. Donations accepted.