Andy Mertens has earned some SCENE ink for his bass playing alone.
He is a founding member of The Jazz Orgy, two-time winners of the Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Award for Best Jazz Band and has been nominated twice for WAMI’s Best Bass Player award.
He also plays with River City Six, The Talk of the Town, Salsa Manzana, The Water City Jazz Orchestra, The Swinging Johnsons and is a regular in Vic Ferrari Symphony on The Rocks.
Currently an Oshkosh resident, he is a graduate of Lawrence University.
“I lived in Jefferson, WI, and started playing piano as a kid and took lessons for five years until my parents bought me a bass,” he said. “Then I was all about the bass.”
“In the fall of ’93, I enrolled in UW-O and studied jazz with John Harmon and bass with cellist David Cowley,” he said. “I played with the university orchestra, jazz band and the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra. The environment in Oshkosh made me fall in love with music again; words fail to accurately describe the awesomeness of John Harmon, Dr. Cowley, Tom Theabo and Janet Planet and the Oshkosh music scene.”
Mertens is giving back to musicians and Oshkosh in a big way. He is both a T’ai Chi instructor and a Quantum Energetics practitioner who has leveraged his personal discoveries to positive health.
“I’ve known Andy for a long time and he has really evolved both musically and as a person, as we all have,” said Oshkosh-based internationally-acclaimed jazz vocalist Janet Planet who is also a yoga instructor who teaches a class at Pura Vida in Appleton on Thursday mornings. “The world of a musician includes a lot of late nights and early mornings. Health becomes a real priority. We have to be healthy to do what we do.”
“I’ve always been on the side of a holistic approach and quantum energetics cured a lot of the recurring things that came up in the past,” she continued. “Myofacial Release is incredible! I am healthier than I have ever been and I’m singing better than ever because it worked for me.”
Planet has referred a number of clients to Mertens.
“Because I have been a receptor, I’ve become a believer,” she said. “Instead of looking for the quick fix, what happens is we get addicted to the feeling of well-being.”
Mertens is one of the best examples of the positive effects of his work. It was his own search for answers that led to his current practice.
“When I left (the band) Harmonious Wail I was in pretty bad shape,” he said. “I was fired for intonation problems, which for someone whose entire ego depended on music was devastating for my psyche. My body was also in rough shape. Digestive troubles and problems keeping food down became more consistent…at 29! At the time I had friends who were noticing how I was going downhill. I had a weekly gig with clarinetist Dan Palmer who would recommend that I should see Jan Ives, who is a Quantum Energetics Therapist.”
The change was dramatic.
“After the first session I made bi-weekly appointments to get through the work fast,” he said. “I took a notion to completely change my life. I quit smoking, drinking and eating processed food. I practiced eight hours every day to fix my intonation problems, taking very few breaks as to avoid cigarette cravings.”
Another health issue led to another discovery.
“Around this same time I began having numbness in my hands while playing bass,” Andy continued. “This started a search for non-surgical remedies with chiropractors, massage therapists, Reiki healers, QEST (Quantum Energetics Structural Therapy) practitioners, acupuncturists and reading books on yoga, meditation, and shamanism. An occupational therapist took me through a series of tests and informed me that the trouble was in my shoulders and that the best way for me to recover would be to learn and practice T’ai Chi.”
He was able to apply the principals of T’ai Chi to his bass playing.
“I improved musically with fewer hours of practice by adding 20 minutes of daily T’ai Chi,” he said. “The most interesting thing to me was the duality of the physical, mental and energetic applications of T’ai Chi. Initially, I was only interested in the healing aspects of the art, but when I delved deeper into the martial ideas, I found the same points that used to cause injury or lock a joint are the same for healing; it all depends on the intention.”
Mertens continued his quest.
“After spending a week working with Myofacial Release therapist John Barnes, PT in his Sedona, Arizona clinic, I was able to put together the things I learned in T’ai Chi with the energetic points of treatment central to QEST,” he explained. “John and his staff taught me to see the restrictions in my clients and how to release them. Everyone is different, but what I found is we all have dealt with some sort of trauma in our life that can express itself in our physical body. Sometimes they can be easily released, and other times there are difficult layers that need to be addressed. I find that I am the latter of these and I respond very well to a skilled MFR therapist. While the mental aspect is the most challenging, the energetic part is what I find the most amazing. This concept plays out with everything physical and mental. Let go of the holdings in the mind and body, you get that energy back, or perhaps by removing the blockage it is able to flow. The T’ai Chi form that I practice and teach is a great way to increase your personal energy to use for whatever you like. I find that there is no end to it.”
Mertens is now positioning himself to expand his practice and the health services he provides.
“I teamed up with Robin Cardell of the Oshkosh Rhythm Institute to open the Oshkosh T’ai Chi Center. We are in the process of renovating the T’ai Chi Center and I’m looking to expand and open the center to other modalities. For me the most helpful things have been QEST, MFR, and T’ai Chi, but I realize there are so many other modalities that are helpful. We will be having an ongoing lecture series on health, nutrition, the healing power of drums and music, and healing through physical exercise and stretching.”
They are looking for teachers of: yoga, meditation, pilates, Feldenkrias Method and other innovative healing methodologies. Anyone who would like to be considered for a teaching spot with their new vision, please contact Andy through the Oshkosh T’ai Chi Center. www.oshkoshtaichicenter.com