Outside the Office: Dr. Alan Branson shares his love of music

Dr. Alan Branson, an avid banjo picker and bluegrass band member sits for a photo outside his Cape Girardeau home on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

I started playing the banjo when I was 10 years old. My parents would often spend summer weekends traveling to bluegrass festivals where I would get to play with and hear some pretty phenomenal musicians. I played in a few bands throughout high school and college and into adulthood. Even today, there are places where people congregate and have a jam session to play with each other. (Due to COVID-19, those have been put on hiatus.) I enjoy playing bluegrass, Gospel, Southern Gospel and old-time country Gospel music.

The band I travel with is an ad hoc group made up of great musicians and even greater people. I love playing with them, and I love them. It moves my soul and takes me someplace I can't go on my own. Music itself has the power to hit emotional chords and lift the spirits, whether in worship or psychologically. Our group, Missouri Folk, reorganizes every-other year to go spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to other parts of the world along with sharing positive American culture. We've done nine concerts in eight days in Belarus. We've traveled to the Ukraine and played there.

You'd be surprised at the doors that can open up when you go to a foreign country to play bluegrass Gospel. They often are unfamiliar with the culture, the sound and the message. We don't charge anything for our concerts or worship services. We share the Gospel and good music and try to interact with the listeners before and after each time we play. It's organized, polished, rehearsed and hopefully thought-provoking. If you get to share about America, its culture and the Gospel and dispel any preconceived notions about who we are as Americans, that's really what we want to do.

I love playing the banjo because it's such a happy, unique instrument. It is fast and has a unique sound. A banjo can liven up almost any music and can bring a depth to the song that you really can't get with any other instrument. Good music -- whether it's rock, bluegrass, blues, country, rap, whatever -- can move your soul, brighten your day, lift your countenance and relieve stress. Find a music genre you like, and listen. There's plenty of good stuff out there. Or play your kind of music on the instrument of your choice.

Whether you are an architect, accountant, musician, farmer, teacher, painter, cook, artist, childcare worker -- everyone has an ability they can use to help someone find purpose in their life. I have used my abilities as an optometrist on 10 mission trips giving glasses and medicine to those in developing countries who need them. You have to be intentional and plan, prepare and execute those plans. And you'll find yourself getting more out of the experience than you put in.

Find your passion, and be intentional with it. Maybe you will find yourself on stage in eastern Europe playing in front of several people. I know I did.