So…I think the time is right to start sharing a little bit about the “secret project” I’ve been working on for the past 18 months. As you may have noticed in the early teasers, the project has something to do with music and the elderly. You’re probably thinking, “Sounds like a million laughs, Monty!” I know…but bear with me.

Almost two years ago I saw a trailer for a documentary film entitled “Alive Inside” in which filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short.

This stirring documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairments. Rossato-Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones. It is a remarkable film that illuminates a miraculous therapy.

I did some research on the Music & Memory project, and after speaking with both the director of the film and Dan Cohen, I decided that this topic would provide fertile ground for a novel. But because of the importance of music in the telling of any story involving this therapy, I felt that the novel needed to be married to music.

This was around the time that the rock band Rush had released their 2012 album “Clockwork Angels” with a companion full-length novel that took the album concept and developed it into a complete story. This kind of new marriage of media formats was compelling to me and I knew I had to explore the idea more.

Neal 601 2012So I contacted my good friend, Neal Morse and pitched the idea. Neal is an insanely talented musician and is regarded as a legend in progressive rock. He listened politely to my pitch to do a novel with a companion CD, but wasn’t sure that the subject matter was really that compelling. I told him to watch the movie trailer and then think about it for a while. A few weeks later we were chatting backstage at one of his concerts in Barcelona, Spain and he told me that he had some great ideas about the concept. A couple months later he called me and said that the timing was right to start working on the project but that he felt really convicted that instead of a novel and CD, that he saw this being done as a musical. A musical!

I was shocked and more than a little freaked out. After all, I’ve never written a script before. But…after some prayer and more conversation with Neal, I decided to take the leap and see where we’d land.

In August 2013, I got together with Neal in his Nashville studio and we outlined the entire story arc, characters, theme, and some song ideas. Shortly after that I began writing the script and Neal began work on more than a dozen songs for the project.

Due to other commitments, we both had to shelve the project for most of 2014, but now have picked it back up and are actively writing and collaborating again.

It is such a blessing to be working on this with such a gifted artist, and someone I’m proud to call a brother in Christ. As the project progresses I will give you more glimpses into the process and maybe even share some sneak peeks.

Until then, be sure to checkout the film “Alive Inside”.