As a full-time musician, I have always maintained a number of regular part-time gigs. One of the most rewarding has been a morning solo violin gig (perfect for musicians!) playing at a local hospital for a couple hours, 3 – 4 times per month for the last 9 years. I am part of their professional Arts and Entertainment program; the administration believes that music makes everyone feel better. It makes me feel better too!
Every time I am there I am reminded of the power of live music in eliciting feelings and response. These folks are ill, they do not want to be there. Sometimes they cry when a song brings up memories, but most often they are smiling when I leave the room, distracted from whatever caused them to be admitted, happy to have listened to and watched me.
I walk into patients’ rooms, stand at their bedside and start by saying, “I play all kinds of music – Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, Broadway, classical, rock ‘n roll, the old songs, country and fiddle tunes – what do you like?” There’s usually a TV on; I tell them I am better than the TV and offer to press the mute button for them. Sometimes the patient chooses, or a visiting family member or nurse guides me, but usually it’s up to me to decide what to play.
What the great job I have to be a musician! I’m grateful I learned to play by ear, can toss off a tune and can add some ease and joy to these peoples lives.