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Mental Health

The Park City Song Summit Brings Mental Health to the Forefront

The Utah-based Song Summit rolls in next month
Courtesy of Ben Anderson

The Park City Song Summit, descending upon the Utah city of its namesake September 7-10 of this year, is a gathering for open-hearted troubadours, music fans, people processing recoveries and traumas, and more. It’s an event of radical honesty at its core, one that redefines what it means to be a musician and why so many artists struggle with mental health issues, addictions, and traumas that (for a multitude of reasons) go undiagnosed.

“I want this event to discuss and bring normalcy and clarity to issues that for too long have been swept under the carpet or spoken about in hushed voices,” event founder Ben Anderson says.

Because of the event’s unique perspective, Anderson found it imperative to structure it in a different, thoughtful way. Instead of bands taking turns playing set after set, the Park City Song Summit is built around a number of different programs. For example, there are Summit Labs, which host artists in conversation with one another to discuss topics that often go ignored in the music industry.

In one Summit Lab, Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Warren Haynes and Newport Folk’s Jay Sweet will take a deep dive into the lessons of John Prine — things like “social equality, humor, and keeping your soul intact while navigating the music industry.” Fans can purchase tickets to each Summit Lab, which also include a live taping of Andrew Bird’s Live from The Great Room. The pioneering YouTube series showcases the creative process across a wide spectrum of arts, with the event’s episode featuring Fred Armisen.

For fans looking to rock out, there are plenty of concerts that are must-see events, like Father John Misty on Thursday with support from Bonny Light Horseman and Rising Appalachia. And because the Park City Song Summit has a focus on recovery (the charismatic founder himself is 15 years sober), the event provides a supportive environment that includes sober green room space, guided yoga and meditations, daily 12-step meetings and craft mocktails.

“There is a way for all concertgoers to coexist if we put intention to the process and listen,” Anderson says. “Some promoters and producers are very supportive, but I would like it if more of them would see the artist as a whole person and support them that way.”

The event is as much a gathering ground for artists as it is your typical music-going experience. It allows artists to explain their processes and dive into the minutiae of their work in an entirely unique way. Alongside these intimate discussions, the event will host Songwriting Rounds, which allows the audience to “hear the story behind their favorite songs from award-winning songwriters.”

The event has also paired with a number of organizations that support its core mission. One such group, The Phoenix, fits in as a perfect support system for the Summit.

“The Phoenix is proud to partner with Stand Together Music to bring our programming to Park City Song Summit,” Scott Strode, Founder and National Executive Director of The Phoenix, said. “We believe that The Phoenix and Park City Song Summit share a unique goal: transforming the world through the power of community. Our team is thrilled to join PCSS as an on-site activation partner this year, helping facilitate the creative journey of artists and attendees through a variety of mental health and wellness activities.”

The Park City Song Summit is above all, a way for artists to express themselves as human beings. Anderson believes that the audience isn’t able to see the souls within artists often enough, which can lead to a lack of empathy. The Summit allows for artists to express themselves both through their work and their personalities.

“We can perhaps understand and appreciate their music more, but more importantly, understand and appreciate who they are as humans, their challenges, their successes, their failures,” Anderson says of his hopes for the event. “If our attendees can understand the humanity that goes into music, we might all be a little more mindful of one another and be able to coexist better on this planet.”