A Hero's Life & Music Therapy (video)

A Hero’s Life


Director of Photography Daniel Traub films Ed Kozempel and Philadelphia Orchestra associate principal flute player David Cramer

Director of Photography Daniel Traub films Ed Kozempel and Philadelphia Orchestra associate principal flute player David Cramer

When talking about his recovery journey, Ed Kozempel references Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), a tone poem by classical music composer Richard Strauss. It’s an apt reference. And while Ed wrestles with daily battles in his mind, music has always been a constant source of hope and happiness.

Ed was born and raised in North Philadelphia. With two bachelor degrees from University of the Arts (one in trombone performance and another in music education), young Ed Kozempel was well on his way to a career in music. But at age 26, mental illness interrupted his dreams.

He was lost to paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. At one time he was hospitalized with catatonic seizures. For thirty years he was in and out of hospitals, boarding homes and the street – “limbo” as he says — searching for the right path, the right medication to give him stability and a place to make music.

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Throughout those many years, Ed never lost sight of his goal of playing flute in an orchestra, and someday teaching. He now lives in West Oak Lane, in a personal care home with seven housemates. And despite the fact that his ability to play has been affected by years without a flute and a recent bought with cancer, he holds fast to his dream. He practices his flute and attends performances by The Philadelphia Orchestra each week (in fact, he’s easy to spot – he’s always first in line for the discounted tickets).

Music is his passion, and his lifeline.

To me, Ed’s search to recover his sound is a touching metaphor for mental health recovery. One note, one sound, at a time. Building slowly, but constantly, with a vision for the future (in his case, a future filled with music).

He lost his tone, but with the support of many professionals, and his internal drive, he found it. “People can do remarkable things even late in life,” he says. His focus and dedication is inspiring.

Indeed, a hero’s life!

Ed Kozempel is interviewed for the Hollywood Beauty Salon documentary

Ed Kozempel is interviewed for the Hollywood Beauty Salon documentary

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ed’s story is just one of many told in this upcoming feature-length documentary about the Hollywood Beauty Salon that is part of the NHS Germantown Recovery Community titled, imaginatively, Hollywood Beauty Salon (the website for the film is hollywoodbeautysalonmovie.com). This colorful and inspiring film, directed by Glenn Holsten, is about surviving mental illness and violence, struggling with loss, finding courage for recovery, and discovering the beauty inside each one of us.

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.

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