Canadian Country Music Star Shares the Power of Music
When Daniel Yaretz thought his headaches and dizziness were just a bad bout of the flu back in March, 2010, he was sorely mistaken.
It turned out he was in for the fight of, and for, his life.
Spinal meningitis put Yaretz in the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta that spring. The illness was beginning to take its toll on the teenager from Cranbrook, British Columbia, praying on his psyche so much so that he was beginning to lose sight of all the things that meant the most to him—the greatest being his love of music.
Then he met Gord Bamford.
“I had heard a couple of his songs but had no idea who (Bamford) was. He came by with three other guys, and I was (thinking to myself), Ok which guy is it?,” he says now laughing at the memory. “At that point I had heard some of his songs, but I really didn’t know what he looked like,” he says, remembering that gloomy March afternoon when Bamford and his small group of musicians walked into his intensive care unit room.
That afternoon Bamford sang some songs and spent almost an hour with Yaretz. Spending time with sick children is a priority for the singer, and one of the main reasons why he started The Gord Bamford Charitable Foundation in 2008. He wanted to generate money for children’s hospitals all across Canada, and help children like Yaretz see that life is worth living, no matter how sick they may be.
Yaretz’ first surgery to his mitral heart value was successful, however a follow-up echo-cardiogram showed progressively worsening signs of congestive heart failure. The teenager also was showing a progressive failure to thrive, losing a dramatic 33 pounds.
“I was still kind of hurting, and coming to the realization of Oh wow, holy smokes, I just went through heart surgery. I was starting to be a Debbie downer, starting to be a little more depressed and thinking oh man, this is not fun,” explains Yaretz.
“One of the social workers came by and said, “Hey you know what? We’ve got someone here who is playing music for the other children, and we’d like him to come in and sing some songs for you.” And I said, well, of course, I’d love to hear some music, definitely. I hadn’t heard music for a couple of months, and I’m a musician! Instantly my spirits got lifted and I was very happy.”
On a personal level, Bamford says he understands how music puts people in their happy place.
“For me, (and for lots of people), music is a place that I go when I need some time on my own or when I’m feeling down or happy,” says Bamford. “Sometimes music relaxes you and takes every other worry or thing you have in life away. You kind of get away on your own for a while.”
On a deeper level, Bamford knows how his visit profoundly changed the young man’s course in life.
“Kids are a priority for me. It’s just a proven fact when you get testimonials from Daniel on how his life has changed (because of music), sometimes you just have to see it to believe it. That was definitely one of those situations,” remembers Bamford of that first visit, saying there wasn’t a dry eye in his group when they left the hospital that day.
“From the very first note, hearing the guitar again, and hearing someone singing was just so inspiring,” echoes Yaretz.” I was just so sad to know that I almost died and I almost lost what I really loved to do, which was music. To have someone come in and play you some notes and sing you some tunes was just really heart-warming. It brought me more inspiration and encouragement to fight on.”
And what did Bamford say that day? “He said to me, ‘Hey bud, just keep going with it, you’re a big fighter. You know what you need to do,” Yaretz says of that first visit. And in the power of the moment, Bamford did something unusual—he gave Daniel his prized, personal Gibson guitar (worth close to $5000). On it he wrote: “Daniel: I love you BUD. 2010. Gord Bamford.” Today Bamford regularly gives guitars away to sick children on his hospital visits.
Since that time, Bamford has stayed in touch with Yaretz, visiting him on his birthday when he was in the hospital after his second heart surgery, but also visiting him in his hometown of Cranbrook, when his tour came through town. Bamford was also recognized by his peers at the Canadian Country Music Association, who named him Humanitarian of the Year in 2010 for his philanthropic efforts with the Gord Bamford Charitable Foundation and work with children’s hospitals.
Today the University of Lethbridge music and education student is healthy and thriving. And from his near death experience he learned to take the gift of music back to his own community. “Right after (the surgery) I did some talks with some high schools about my experience. The biggest thing I kept telling people was that instead of being depressed about it, take something from it and learn from it. That’s the biggest achievement of them all.” The 20-year-old musician often plays for the local senior’s center or the hospital children’s ward and is a recipient of the BC Registered Music Teachers’ Association Gold level “Musical Community Service Award” for volunteering over 60 musical service hours performing piano in the community.
No matter where their lives may take them, the sound of music will undoubtedly continue on for both Yaretz and Bamford.
“I may be just a guy with a guitar, but I have seen first-hand the power of music when it comes to healing,” says Bamford.
Luckily for Daniel Yaretz, Gord Bamford’s simple gift of country songs saved his life.
Before and After Pictures:
University of Lethbridge Student Daniel Yaretz with the Gibson guitar Gord Bamford gave him during his 2010 visit to the Intensive Care Unit at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.