New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Arlon Bennett & The Healing Project

By Gary Wien

originally published: 12/22/2015

Arlon Bennett & The Healing Project

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects your movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand and eventually affecting almost every part of the body.  Some of the most recognizable names with Parkinson’s include Muhammad Ali, Michael J. Fox, Linda Ronstadt, and Bob Benjamin whose 40th birthday party led to the creation of the Light of Day Foundation.

Many music fans have learned about Parkinson’s disease from the annual Light of Day concerts, which raise funds to help find a cure for the disease.  Light of Day has expanded from a single show in Asbury Park to events held on 13 countries on 3 continents.  The shows return to Asbury Park for 10 days in January, including one night that includes a performance by Arlon Bennett, an artist diagnosed with Parkinson’s in October 2010.

Bennett, a folk musician whose songs evoke memories of Harry Chapin and James Taylor, had suspicions of something wrong for a few years prior to the diagnosis.  As a finger-picking guitarist, he noticed his fingers stumbling during patterns he had down cold.  But no matter how prepared you are, hearing the official diagnose still hits hard.  Bennett recalls feeling numb when his doctor told him the news.

“It was like is this real? I feel fine,” recalled Bennett.  “But then I immediately got to doctor googling everything in sight and reading everything.  I learned a lot about this beautiful body of ours and saw that I didn’t have to take it lying down.  Was I depressed for five minutes? Yeah, maybe a little more than that, but I pulled it together and said onwards!”

In addition to reading whatever he could find on Parkinson’s, Bennett decided to change everything about his life from his attitude to family to diet and exercise.  He thought that the onset of Parkinson’s must have been based on a set of circumstances that had been in place, so the logical next step was to change his circumstances.  He looked at the air he breathed, the water he drank, and the food he put into his body.

The article continues after this ad


“If you look at it like a house, I had to fix the foundation,” he explained.  “I needed to make sure there were no cracks in the foundation before I started tinkering with things that could be disease modifying.  So I went to the foundation of the house - the membrane of the cells.  I said I’ve got to feed the membrane the right oil, the right nutrients, and give it the right exercise.”

Three years after the diagnosis, Bennett decided it was time to let people know. Covering up for disease-related miscues on stage had begun causing anxiety for him.  He began thinking that keeping the disease a secret was hurting him more than simply making it public.  

“If you try to take the stage and you’re feeling anxiety that you wouldn’t normally feel, it affects your playing,” he continued.  “You get this self-conscious feeling and it spirals down and affects your emoting when you try to perform a song.  It’s not healthy; music is supposed to be something you enjoy and love.  The disease makes you anxious and I knew it was causing more anxiety, which is unhealthy.  So, I said I was going to have to tell everybody I had Parkinson’s.  This way I can do the music without fear, without encumbrance, and without self-consciousness.  And so that exposed a whole new paradigm.  If I tell people I have Parkinson’s then I have a story to tell and to teach, and I’ve got awareness to spread.”

The announcement was made at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) annual conference. The Folk Alliance is an important group for Bennett and he thought it made sense to let his musical community be the first to know.  He hosted a showcase called “Mind Healing Songs From The Heart” and invited a dozen performers whose lives had been touched in some way by neurological illness (ALS, MS, PD, etc.) to share an original song.  Bennett went last.  As a performer that has always lent a hand to causes and benefits throughout his career, it likely didn’t surprise anyone to learn that Bennett was going to turn his situation into a positive one.  And he did that by launching The Healing Project, an effort to use music to heal.  

“Whenever I’ve been hurt in the past, it’s always been a song that has cured me and pulled me out,” said Bennett.  “I’m not a music therapist.  I have friends who are and they do the real work of this.  I’m not pretending to be a therapist.  All I know is that music can heal.”

Bennett’s music with The Healing Project isn’t that different from the songs he wrote before, but there’s more of an emphasis on writing songs that are positive and upbeat.  He says some songs are written specifically about Parkinson’s, but generalized so they can apply to people facing any type of challenge.

The title track of his last album, World of Possibilities, is a perfect example.  Released in 2013, the song was written about the challenges Bennett faced with Parkinson’s.  Yet, the song itself is full of hope and optimism for the future.  World of Possibilities was his fourth release following Fountain of Dreams (1999), The Watch Man (2001), and Summer’s Voice (2007).  Bennett admits that being diagnosed gave him the push to finish the album.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ve got some songs to get out here,’” he recalled.  “I naturally intend on healing from this, but in case I don’t or it gets too hard to play the guitar, the prudent thing is to get the songs out of you while they’re there.  ‘World of Possibilities’ is probably the only song I wrote strictly about the condition.  The others were songs I had in waiting.  The next project will be The Healing Project itself and it will have a new collection of songs.”

The Healing Project record will probably be released next year.  In addition to new songs, the record will be a compilation of tracks that he’s done before like “The Watch Man” and “Don’t Turn Back Now.”  All will be positive and inspirational or spiritual in nature.

Playing guitar every day offers inspiration to Bennett and lets him keep tabs on his condition as well.  He says he can still shape chords pretty close to the way he’s always done, but his right hand is slower and strumming patterns are getting a bit uninteresting due to having only one rhythm.  He’s aware that some of the progression has already taken place.  Some days are better than others though — days in which he finds he can do more.  

“I believe by doing it, I don’t lose it,” he explained.  “I keep working because I need to keep those connections working.  Something might be working because yesterday at my doctor visit I found out that my right hand dexterity has gotten better from the last exam.  It’s interesting because the disease is degenerative and I got better in one side.  That’s a good sign and keeps me working.”

“I can’t complain, I’m hanging in there,” he added.  “It’s an on-going war; you just pick your battles and march ahead.  I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.”

For more by this author, click here

Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme Presents Patrick Fitzsimmons On December 16
(SUCCASUNNA, NJ) -- Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme (RR&R) presents Patrick Fitzsimmons on Sunday, December 16 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Investors Bank Theatre in Succasunna. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for RAA/SSG/JAM members; and free for those under 18.
Outpost in the Burbs Presents Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Outpost in the Burbs presents Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams on Saturday, December 8th at 8:00pm at the First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Avenue.  Opening the show will be New York City-based singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson. Outpost volunteers will be accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for the holiday season for Toys for Tots at the show.
Jann Klose and The Voice's Josett Diaz To Perform At Ethical Brew To Benefit A Cause Close To Home
(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 8th, singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jann Klose will perform at Ethical Brew on behalf of Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, a community arts and cultural center for children and teens located in Bronx, New York.  Doors open at 7:30, show begins at 8:00pm.
Kenny Chesney To Perform At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Focusing on smaller venues and markets not directly impacted by his massive stadium tours, Kenny Chesney sought to make his Songs for the Saints 2019 Tour mirror the intimacy of its namesake album. Inspired by the resilience of the people around him, Chesney doubles down on the human connection for his 2019 tour by seeking those members of No Shoes Nation who have spent the past decade and a half making the trip to stadium markets for what is now a summer tradition. On Saturday, May 11, 2019 he brings the tour to Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.
State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.

"Great Music!" Tavares and Harold Melvin's Blue Notes LIVE! at the Strand Theater
The music of the 1970s is alive and well this Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Lakewood, NJ’s Strand Theater with a concert by the ’70’s R&B and soul groups Tavares and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes!
"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Nov 20, 2018

The Madness of George III @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm and 7:00pm


Warren Miller’s Face of Winter @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.