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FAST FIVE Adam Foote of Ethereal in E: 'Music is my life'

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | October 3, 2020 1:00 AM

Meet Adam Foote of Ethereal in E, a solo musician who plays a tuned steel drum called a "handpan." He began his career toward professional music on the street corner as a busker. Taking the money he earned from this, he recorded his first album, "Up." Also, going door to door, Adam handed out his CDs to local businesses he thought might hire him to play live music in Coeur d'Alene. He then began performing at restaurants, yoga studios, festivals, lounges and retirement homes. Unfortunately, the quarantine decimated nearly all live music opportunities and it was time to adapt, which prompted Adam to focus on multiplying his Facebook following from 40,000 to more than 200,000 in just a matter of months. He now does a live video on Facebook every morning in nature to greet, serenade and connect with others who are also on a journey of personal growth to heal their mental health ailments. Experience Ethereal in E: https://www.facebook.com/Ethereal

Generation: I am most definitely a millennial.

Career and community involvement:

I have a bachelor's degree in psychology from Taylor University and a masters degree in social work from Eastern Washington University. My career in the social work field was primarily as a mental health therapist and an eelementary school counselor at Borah Elementary School. I believe I pursued a career in mental health with a subconscious desire to learn how to cure my own mental illness. Ultimately, I left due to burnout related to putting the needs of others before my own. Upon hitting rock bottom, I decided it was time to take my mental health seriously, resulting in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Part of my therapy, in regard to taking care of myself, is to find a reason for life. Mostly in the form of creating and sharing through music.

1. How and when did you become acquainted with the handpan?

I was the kid growing up who was always tapping on something. That led to lessons on the drum set as a teenager and hand percussion as a young adult. In 2013, I was in between jobs and low on cash so I started donating plasma. While I was lying on the donation bed, I was scrolling through percussion-related videos. The next suggested video was of a man named Daniel Waples in England playing a steel drum called a handpan. I immediately fell in love with the sound and thought to myself, "I could probably do that!" It was my ticket into becoming a professional musician. Three years later I proved myself right, as I've now been playing the handpan for almost five years.

2. How does your instrument differ from others, and is it hard to learn?

Perhaps the first-ever instrument to be invented in the new millenium in the year 2000 by a company in Switzerland named PanArt. Prior to this they were making Caribbean steel pans. The idea came to fruition when a hand percussionist from India asked if they could make a steel drum that could be played in the lap with hands vs. on a stand with mallets. This truly is an instrument that can be played by anyone as it does not require any musical sense. Handpans are tuned to a pentatonic scale, which essentially means you can't play a wrong note as all the notes sound pleasant when played together.

3. What goes through your mind, and how do you feel, when you play?

I honestly try to empty my mind when I play. I believe it is a coping skill I learned from a young age. When dealing with trauma as a child, I tapped on anything that was near me simply to distract my mind from all the awful thoughts rushing through. When I focus on the innate rhythm, it causes time and space to cease. It's as if someone just pressed pause in my brain, allowing me to experience all of my senses in a very intense and real way. This is when I tend to breathe deep. I smile and take in all the beauty of my surroundings. I make this my morning meditation as I serenade the followers on my Facebook page during my daily live music video.

4. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I'm an introvert. Far more people know who I am online than they do in person. I enjoy going to work every day when it involves me trekking off to some secluded nature spot and broadcasting a live, interactive music video for an audience I can't even see. I get to perform for a large amount of people, all while still being completely alone. In today's world, you can be famous online and yet still be relatively unknown in person. In fact, I would venture to guess that when strangers see me for the first time, they likely think I'm homeless. That false perception used to bother me until I had a homeless woman approach me while I was doing street performance. She asked where I was staying for the night and I was offended because she assumed I was homeless. I later heard her on the phone asking if she could "crash on a couch" causing me to realize she was the one who was homeless and appealing to me for resources. I then asked myself, "Who needs this money more, me or her?" I then proceeded to give her all the money I made that night. I told her that perhaps she could use it to get somewhere to stay for the night. From then on, I've realized my appearance makes me a safe person for people to go to who are going through some sort of hardship in their life.

5. Why do we, as humans, need music, and what can we do to incorporate more of it into our lives?

I can only speak for myself, but I need music because it has and will continue to save my life on a daily basis. Music helps me cope with my past trauma by allowing me to be present in the here and now. It soothes the pain and gives me a reason to feel alive each and every moment. Music makes order out of chaos, causing the dust to settle in the stirring thoughts of my bipolar brain. Music is like an auditory pheromone, drawing the listener into the aura of the musician. Forging new relationships with strangers who would become more like a good neighbor. Music to me is life, because without it I might not be here. Music is my life.