It was almost like opening presents on Christmas morning.
Only there was no tree yet in the recreation room at Building 17 — a residential rehab treatment program facility at the Alvin C. York Veterans’ Administration Medical Center. And these were not children, but grown men and women — patients and caregivers — whose eyes sparkled at the thought of what was about to happen.
Patient Levi Troxell led the way as he moved to assist MTSU’s Keith M. Huber in opening a box with a new guitar. Troxell has played guitar for 32 years. He said he learned from his father, the late Bill Troxell, who played music with the likes of Buddy Guy, Carvin Jones and Ten Years After, a British pop group popular in the 1960s and early ’70s.
Four electric guitars, built by Schneider Electric employees during a team-building exercise in September, recently were given by the MTSU Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center to the Murfreesboro VA patients for music and relaxation therapy. Two guitars were given to Building 17 and two given to Building 11.
“This is amazing,” said Troxell, adding the guitars will help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or sobriety issues. “Even if they come and listen to people play, the interaction will be soothing or therapeutic. These are high-quality instruments.”
Troxell played “an old Bo Didley practice riff and messed around with a Jimi Hendrix tune” as he was just getting started and utilized one of four portable amplifiers also part of the guitar gifts.
Joshua Boatman, Justin Haverlin, Phillip Rich and Micheal Strong were others gravitating to the guitars at the Dec. 3 presentation.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, spoke to Schneider Electric employees for 90 minutes in September during the company’s leadership program event. The company embraces and empowers veterans in its workforce.
In appreciation of Huber’s visit, Schneider Electric agreed to give him and the veterans center the instruments.
Huber and Hilary Miller, Daniels Center director, decided to give them to the Murfreesboro VA.
Jennifer Vedral-Baron, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System director, joined them and VA patients and staff for the special MTSU/Schneider Electric presentation.
“We know music heals,” said Vedral-Baron, who oversees Nashville and Murfreesboro VA operations and 11 Midstate VA clinics. “This is going to help so many more veterans heal.”
As Vedral-Baron finished her brief remarks and Huber and Troxell initiated the opening of the boxes, the responses of “how pretty” and “beautiful” emerged from the small gathering assembled for the presentation.
Huber said it is a continuation of “the incredible collaboration we have with the VA.” He said Schneider Electric, whose Nashville hub is located in Franklin, Tennessee, and separate manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee, maintains an environment “where leadership matters.”
“These guitars can now touch hundreds of veterans,” Huber said. “That’s the magic of music.”
Karen Mallard, Schneider Electric human resources manager, said her company “is incredibly humbled by the opportunity to work with the community. … Sometimes small things make a big difference. … It’s humbling to see something we did as a fun activity have a larger impact. We hope these (guitars) are enjoyed by the veterans for many years.”
There also was “a competition within the teams to decorate the boxes,” Mallard said. “Each team was able to express their artistic abilities.”
The Daniels Veterans Center staff includes two fully funded VA employees to assist MTSU’s 1,000-plus student veterans and families with benefits-related questions and issues. The center is located in Room 124 of the Keathley University Center.
MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)
Top image: U.S. veteran Phillip Rich sat near the fireplace in the recreation room at the Alvin C. York Veterans’ Administration Medical Center and played around with one of four guitars given for music therapy at the veterans facility by MTSU and Schneider Electric. On the mantle are two of the military-themed, hand-painted boxes for two of four guitars given recently. (MTSU photo by James Cessna)