Music in Assisted Living

Every week I play violin in nursing homes and assisted living for people with all types of conditions. Sometimes I play on a unit specifically for residents with Alzheimer's or Dementia. I face a challenge every week because the environment is often filled with outbursts and disruptions. I then strive to change and shape the music to cater to the residents and staff in hopes of creating a positive impact.

Earlier this month I went to a new healthcare facility to play for residents. I walked into a room filled with people who appeared confused or asleep. I set up my equipment and waited for the activities coordinator to continue wheeling residents into the room. The room had an open wall so people in the hallway or lobby could hear the music. I also could hear conversations and traffic from outside the room. I remember playing You Are My Sunshine and a resident inched his way towards my right side and began shouting at his phone. He said, "There is a black boy playing the fiddle! He play damn good fiddle! Damn good!" Meanwhile, I'm trying my best to continue with the song and play in tune. I couldn't help but laugh because the moment was ridiculous. The resident then took his flip phone and stretched his arm inches away from my violin so whoever was on the phone could hear the music.

In the same concert, an elderly woman in the hallway rose from her chair and began to scream profanities while I played I've Been Working On the Railroad.  She said "I don't give a f*** what she said! She can shut the f*** up! F*** her!!!!" I continued playing and watched the audience seem captivated by the music. Staff smiled and sang along while residents clapped their hands. I've grown accustomed to the disruptions and outbursts because I know that's real with Alzheimer's and Dementia. Very rarely do I perform in an environment where people stop and listen. I always welcome people to sing along or fall asleep. I want the music to reach people where they are and to be comfortable being themselves. 

Whenever I play in a nursing home or assisted living, I tell the audience the music is for them. Nurses often run around coordinator meal tickets and medications. If you were to look at their faces you could visibly see the stress and hear the frustration in their voices. There are moments when Nurses sing along to the music and begin to encourage residents to sing too. I hear joy instead of heavy sighs and see smiles instead of irritation. I begin to smile too and know the music has a healing impact. 

The random outbursts or conversations people try to have with me as I play are all part of the experience and I wouldn't have it any other way. My hope is that we take the time to visit residents in nursing homes or assisted living and be present. I've been humbled and blessed as a violinist for doing so. 

Violin and Yoga in Jail

“You’re lucky to play the violin.” I paused from playing “Edelweiss “ and laid my violin in my lap. I sat in a chair by the bedside of the veteran at Walter Reed Medical Center. Nurses peered into the room to see my violin. I watched as the veteran struggled to sit himself upright, as he slowly stretched his hands out in front of him and shared how envious he was that I could play the violin.

He must have noticed the puzzled looked on my face because he went on to share how he had watched my fingers dance on the fingerboard as I had played some of his favorite music. He continued and said that his cancer had begun to diminish his ability to move his fingers without pain.

Before I left, he thanked me for sitting down and spending time sharing music and triggering old memories… I thought about that moment as I stood next to the yoga instructor in front of the security checkpoint in the jail. I felt anxious as the alarm buzzed and gate slowly opened, as the chains grated against the gears. I silently told myself bringing this combination of yoga and violin music for the inmates would create a positive impact.

 

 

The instructor and I had worked together providing music and yoga for gym members and one evening discussed the idea of starting a program in jail for female inmates. The yoga instructor and I navigated through various checkpoints, and we waited by our designated room while a Bible study continued. As time ticked closer to our reservation, the Bible study leader indicated that he had the room booked for another hour.

My heart sank, and I began to wonder if we would be able to hold the session at all due to the jail’s strict rules. Our yoga mats were in the corner of the room on a cart, and the floor looked clean enough to eat dinner from, but we couldn’t use the room. We made our way back to the control center and explained our dilemma to the officer on duty and were then offered to utilize an empty unit. We grabbed the cart carrying the yoga mats and walked towards our new destination. While we waited for the officer to usher the female inmates into the hallway by the empty unit I couldn’t help but smile. This was finally happening. After months of planning, I would have the opportunity to use music to help people in a unique way.

The class size was maxed at 12 ladies, and everyone seemed eager to begin. After the officer unlocked the unit I began to wonder how we could use this space to hold the session. The air smelled stale, and I noticed dust particles floating by the ceiling lights. The empty unit had a big open area with high ceilings and cells on one side and stairs leading to a second level of cells. Tables were scattered in the center of the room, and I saw bugs crawling on the floor.

However, within minutes, the ladies began pushing tables towards the empty cells and sweeping the floor. The empty unit reminded me of the Correctional Facility used in the 3rd season of The Walking Dead, but fortunately in our case, we didn’t encounter zombies.

As the yoga instructor began the session I took a deep breath and sought to transform the unit’s aura with music. I thought of warm colors as my vibrato carried the overtones throughout the unit.

I watched as the women laughed while trying new poses and testing their balance. I changed the music in response to floor exercises and standing poses. When the women were asked to quickly exhale and create an odd facial expression, I accented notes at the end of their breath while adding a harmonic to supplement the motions.

I noticed people soften and show vulnerability through laughter and curse words in response to poses that required more balance and coordination. They encouraged one another to keep trying and be respectful of the instructor. As we approached the meditation portion of the session, I felt calm. The space which initially had seemed unsavory for yoga because of the bugs crawling by the ladies’ yoga mats had transformed into a warm safe space.

The ladies were asked to lay a washcloth over their eyes and initiate the Savasana pose. In that moment, I stood by the instructor once more and felt goosebumps along my arms. I dug deeper into my strings, unearthing richer sounds from my violin in hopes of the music reaching the hearts of the women. I could hear the echo of my violin as the sounds bounced off the walls of the empty cells in the unit.

The instructor prior to the session shared that she also specializes in Reiki and will often utilize it during the meditation portion of her classes for members in hopes of helping them find balance and restoration. I watched as the instructor moved closer towards the women and spread her hands to share her energy with the class.

After the session, a woman approached me and shared with me and her new friends that because of anxiety she hadn’t been able to sleep since getting locked up. She then said that the yoga and music was not only soothing but helped her feel relaxed for the first time since becoming an inmate and that she would finally be able to sleep. All the written feedback from the evaluation forms were positive!

“I liked the fact that I got a decent workout that was not strenuous! It was very soothing. I also liked the Violin! It put an extra sense of peace to the class and workout!” “I loved it! I can’t wait for the class to come back. It made me feel better mentally and physically.” “I enjoyed the yoga class so much. Please have them return. I know I personally enjoyed it and it really helped clear my mind. Thank you for allowing them to come.”

I’m thankful that the session turned out well regardless of the changes and space. I look forward to returning to share music for a community experiencing a difficult time in their lives.

Chocolate!!!!

This past week I visited Hebrew Home of Greater Washington to play music for the residents before dinner time. I walked in to the usual blaring of the local news while residents blankly stared into space from their wheelchairs or slept. I began to unpack my violin as the news had continual coverage of the shooting in Las Vegas. I approached the TV to mute the sound and smelled something sweet and sugary. Immediately I saw a resident sitting by the TV covered in chocolate while she polished off her candy bar. I thought of the Chocolate Guy from Spongebob and Scene from the first Dumb and Dumber movie where the father walks into the bathroom and mistakes the chocolate for a much less savory brown substance. The resident placed the wrapping of the chocolate bar in her lap as she tried to slide the remote across the TV stand. I tried really hard not to laugh because she also reminded me of the numerous times my Niece somehow manages to cover her entire face with sweet potatoes while my sister feeds her. I smiled as I turned the TV off and tuned to violin to begin the music.

While I played “She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain” the chocolate covered resident laughed with a gleeful expression on her face and clapped her hands. For a moment, she resembled a kid sitting on the curb by a candy store chuckling along with friends without a care in the world. One of the aides saw all the chocolate and calmly walked over with a washcloth. The laughs disappeared and the resident became angry. She didn’t want help or to be bothered nor for the chocolate wiped away. All she wanted was to listen and enjoy the music. I switched songs to You Are My Sunshine in hopes of distracting the resident with a familiar tune so the aide could wipe away the chocolate. The resident battled the aide and refused assistance while turning back towards me and smile. Eventually, the resident accepted help but there was too much chocolate for a small washcloth.

After the music I began to walk away and the residents appeared lively. A few called me over to thank me for the wonderful playing and shared they hoped I would come back. The great thing is that I get to go back next week and share another experience.

Home on the Range

Last month I wrapped up my time playing at Walter Reed for patients and families. It was truly an honor to share music so I wanted to begin my last day differently. I set up my violin by the nurses’ station to play a song specifically for them. I had no idea how long they had been working that day prior to my arrival. Perhaps the last few hours of a 12-hour shift? I don’t know but when one of the nurses asked if I could play for him I didn’t hesitate to ask which song he’d like to hear. As I readied my violin a woman came from around the corner asking if I played in individual rooms and if I could come play for her Dad. She briefly shared that his father used to play the fiddle and give concerts for family and friends. I smiled and said I’d make my way.

I played Ave Maria by the nurses’ station and saw a few heads poke out of different rooms. While the nurses worked I saw people slowly make their way to the station to listen while putting a pause on the various questions they may have wanted to ask the nurses. After I finished the song, I went to the rooms of patients to play and spotted the woman from before. She ushered me into a room full of people. The woman exclaimed that I was here and told her Dad that she had a surprised for him. I looked around and had a hard time counting the number of people visiting her Dad. I introduced myself and saw family members eager to listen and wanting to record on their phones so I made a point in saying to please feel free to record and share with family and friends. I played one song after another to hear different family members sing along to Somewhere Over the Rainbow as their Dad quietly smiled from his bed and watched as I played. I finished the music and thanked everyone for my time while giving one of the daughters my card.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from one of the daughters explaining that her father had passed away and prior to passing had arranged with his family to request if I could play at the funeral. The family asked if I could perform a Hymn with the Organist and Home on the Range. I was initially baffled honestly. Why me? But I’ve learned that sometimes God puts you where you need to be so I didn’t ask questions and said of course.

At the funeral, I sat to play as people came for the gathering prior to the service. While I played, the Organist introduced herself as she arrived so I rehearsed the hymn Abide With Me by the Organ and somehow ended playing through countless hymns with her and songs in an Organ book. As the service waited for my time to play Home on the Range at the end. At that time, the room became still and quiet. The organist gave me the signal and I stood to play Home on the Range one final time. It took me back to the time I performed Edelweiss for the patient I met in Hospice. When I finished, I heard one of the daughters exhale deeply and say thank you.

During the dinner, I still had the question lingering in my head. Why me? One of the daughters sat by me and shared that she played the video recording from that day in the hospital over and over again for her Dad. When he no longer responded verbally, she played the video and he would lift his hands playing the air violin. My heart hurt but I smiled. I was thankful to be at the hospital that very day to play.

Before I left the family said they would never forget me and thanked me again for fulfilling their Father’s request. I am grateful God continues to use me in the most amazing of ways and I hope I continue to grow in humility and skill.

Last month I wrapped up my time playing at Walter Reed for patients and families. It was truly an honor to share music so I wanted to begin my last day differently. I set up my violin by the nurses’ station to play a song specifically for them. I had no idea how long they had been working that day prior to my arrival. Perhaps the last few hours of a 12-hour shift? I don’t know but when one of the nurses asked if I could play for him I didn’t hesitate to ask which song he’d like to hear. As I readied my violin a woman came from around the corner asking if I played in individual rooms and if I could come play for her Dad. She briefly shared that his father used to play the fiddle and give concerts for family and friends. I smiled and said I’d make my way.

I played Ave Maria by the nurses’ station and saw a few heads poke out of different rooms. While the nurses worked I saw people slowly make their way to the station to listen while putting a pause on the various questions they may have wanted to ask the nurses. After I finished the song, I went to the rooms of patients to play and spotted the woman from before. She ushered me into a room full of people. The woman exclaimed that I was here and told her Dad that she had a surprised for him. I looked around and had a hard time counting the number of people visiting her Dad. I introduced myself and saw family members eager to listen and wanting to record on their phones so I made a point in saying to please feel free to record and share with family and friends. I played one song after another to hear different family members sing along to Somewhere Over the Rainbow as their Dad quietly smiled from his bed and watched as I played. I finished the music and thanked everyone for my time while giving one of the daughters my card.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from one of the daughters explaining that her father had passed away and prior to passing had arranged with his family to request if I could play at the funeral. The family asked if I could perform a Hymn with the Organist and Home on the Range. I was initially baffled honestly. Why me? But I’ve learned that sometimes God puts you where you need to be so I didn’t ask questions and said of course. 

At the funeral, I sat to play as people came for the gathering prior to the service. While I played, the Organist introduced herself as she arrived so I rehearsed the hymn Abide With Me by the Organ and somehow ended playing through countless hymns with her and songs in an Organ book. As the service waited for my time to play Home on the Range at the end. At that time, the room became still and quiet. The organist gave me the signal and I stood to play Home on the Range one final time. It took me back to the time I performed Edelweiss for the patient I met in Hospice. When I finished, I heard one of the daughters exhale deeply and say thank you.

During the dinner, I still had the question lingering in my head. Why me? One of the daughters sat by me and shared that she played the video recording from that day in the hospital over and over again for her Dad. When he no longer responded verbally, she played the video and he would lift his hands playing the air violin. My heart hurt but I smiled. I was thankful to be at the hospital that very day to play. 

Before I left the family said they would never forget me and thanked me again for fulfilling their Father’s request. I am grateful God continues to use me in the most amazing of ways and I hope I continue to grow in humility and skill.

Last month I wrapped up my time playing at Walter Reed for patients and families. It was truly an honor to share music so I wanted to begin my last day differently. I set up my violin by the nurses’ station to play a song specifically for them. I had no idea how long they had been working that day prior to my arrival. Perhaps the last few hours of a 12-hour shift? I don’t know but when one of the nurses asked if I could play for him I didn’t hesitate to ask which song he’d like to hear. As I readied my violin a woman came from around the corner asking if I played in individual rooms and if I could come play for her Dad. She briefly shared that his father used to play the fiddle and give concerts for family and friends. I smiled and said I’d make my way.

I played Ave Maria by the nurses’ station and saw a few heads poke out of different rooms. While the nurses worked I saw people slowly make their way to the station to listen while putting a pause on the various questions they may have wanted to ask the nurses. After I finished the song, I went to the rooms of patients to play and spotted the woman from before. She ushered me into a room full of people. The woman exclaimed that I was here and told her Dad that she had a surprised for him. I looked around and had a hard time counting the number of people visiting her Dad. I introduced myself and saw family members eager to listen and wanting to record on their phones so I made a point in saying to please feel free to record and share with family and friends. I played one song after another to hear different family members sing along to Somewhere Over the Rainbow as their Dad quietly smiled from his bed and watched as I played. I finished the music and thanked everyone for my time while giving one of the daughters my card.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from one of the daughters explaining that her father had passed away and prior to passing had arranged with his family to request if I could play at the funeral. The family asked if I could perform a Hymn with the Organist and Home on the Range. I was initially baffled honestly. Why me? But I’ve learned that sometimes God puts you where you need to be so I didn’t ask questions and said of course. 

At the funeral, I sat to play as people came for the gathering prior to the service. While I played, the Organist introduced herself as she arrived so I rehearsed the hymn Abide With Me by the Organ and somehow ended playing through countless hymns with her and songs in an Organ book. As the service began, I waited for my time to play Home on the Range at the end. At that time, the room became still and quiet. The organist gave me the signal and I stood to play Home on the Range one final time. It took me back to the time I performed Edelweiss for the patient I met in Hospice. When I finished, I heard one of the daughters exhale deeply and say thank you.

During the dinner, I still had the question lingering in my head. Why me? One of the daughters sat by me and shared that she played the video recording from that day in the hospital over and over again for her Dad. When he no longer responded verbally, she played the video and he would lift his hands playing the air violin. My heart hurt but I smiled. I was thankful to be at the hospital that very day to play. 

Before I left, the family said they would never forget me and thanked me again for fulfilling their Father’s request. I am grateful God continues to use me in the most amazing of ways and I hope I continue to grow in humility and skill.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Days like today reminded me why it was important I leave my job and dedicate time to music. I went to the hospital to play for patients and hoped I would be able to find patients that would allow me to perform a few songs. The staff on the oncology units have come to know me well and anticipate Violin music whenever they see my Captain America shield backpack and Batman symbol on my violin case. One of the nurses at the station exclaimed “Hooray! Entertainment.” I chuckled to myself and readied my violin to greet patients and families. I felt good today and prepared to play different songs for patients.

I knocked on a patient's door and saw a young woman lying in bed who appeared shocked to see someone enter with a violin. She smiled and slowly sat upright while I told her I was there to play music. She nodded and said that she was the only one in the room but I replied by saying that I’m here to play for you. She relaxed her body and eased her head into the pillow while waiting for me to begin. I started with A Thousand Years by Christina Perri while taking my time with the melody and allowing the notes to ring throughout the room and hallway. I watched as tears welled in her eyes so I slowed the tempo and widened my vibrato. After a few songs, I played Somewhere Over the Rainbow and saw her cover her face with the bed sheet. I kept repeating the melody and watched as she audibly cried in her bed. I continued through more songs and after performing Canon in D I used the D as a transition note to return to Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a brighter key. I normally perform the song in the Key of C major for a mellow color but I felt I needed to reprise the song with a stronger color. This time she smiled and after I had finished she continued smiling.

The woman asked how I picked those songs and I told her that my grandmother has Alzheimer’s so I try to pick songs she recognizes and can sing along to as I play. The woman then said that 5 years ago she had arranged for A Thousand Years and Somewhere Over the Rainbow to be played at her husband’s funeral. She took a deep breath and said that next week would have been his birthday and she’s sad because no one talks about him anymore. Then she shared the music reminded her of the time they spent together and that she wants to take her children to more concerts.

I’m thankful I could be there and look forward to sharing music again at the hospital this week. I’ve performed Somewhere Over the Rainbow countless times but today made it special and I hope I can continue to make a positive impact on the patients and staff.

A Day In Walter Reed

Since leaving my job I’ve had to embrace dedicating more time and energy into not only being a musician and trainer but accepting that I have to believe in myself. Today I went to Walter Reed to play for patients and families after my lesson. I got on the elevator and already waiting to reach his destination was Hospital cleaning staff. We ascended one floor and then a woman in her 50s or 60s came onboard and asked to hit the button where she wanted to exit. The button would not light but the staff member assured her that the elevator would still let her off on the right floor. She responded in a rude manner and continued hitting the button herself and said a not so pleasant comment to the worker before getting off on the same floor I had planned to go. I smiled and thanked the gentleman for his patience and walked the opposite section of the woman to begin finding patients to visit.

I was fortunate to be welcomed by different patients and play without any issues and while I played I felt someone from outside the door watching…I turned around to see one of the nurses smiling with her eyes closed listening so I continued playing until the end of the session. As I was jotting down notes she approached me with a somewhat frazzled and forced smile on her face. I could tell she seemed stress while trying to maintain composure in the environment. She asked if I would play Amazing Grace for her and I said of course. So, by the nurse’s station, I stood and played Amazing Grace. To my surprise, I saw a change in not only her mood but those nearby. An elderly woman with a wristband that read ‘surgery’ slowly walked towards the station with the assistance of her cane. I looked around to see people coming to the station to just stop and listen. Families stepped outside the rooms of their loved ones to hear the music. That’s one of the things I love about performing music. I can control the timing of phrases while watching people’s responses in real time. I also have no idea how many people can hear the music in the environment because the sound leaks into rooms. When I finished playing the nurse thanked me and said it was hard not to cry but she smiled and went about tending to a patient.

I wanted to play for one more room so I knocked and asked patients to play but some were with family or hoping to rest. I knocked on a patient’s door to hear CNN on blast but didn’t see anyone initially because it was a shared room. I continued walking in and saw an elderly woman lying in bed relaxed yet curious as to why I had a violin in my hands. She told me she had difficulty hearing but wanted to watch me play so I turned off the tv and began with Edelweiss. After the 2nd song, a woman walked into the room with ice cream in her hands and I struggled to resist from laughing. It was the woman from the elevator was short with the hospital staff. She allowed me to finish playing and shared how much she appreciated me playing for her mom. She asked about my work and if I considered joining the National Symphony Orchestra. I smiled and wanted to ask if she was high because folks who could play circles around me fly from around the world to compete for one spot. I of course politely told her I’m focused on outreach. Anyway, she and her mom were both kind and encouraged me to continue playing and using music in the community. 
Today I felt more encouraged to play violin with a smile on my face because I had amazing encounters too numerous to share and difficult to properly convey. I realize that while some days are filled with praying I play in tune and building technique, I have moments that change lives through a willing spirit and violin.

When the Saints Go Marching In

There are times where I go to play in Hospice and some families would prefer to spend time with their loved ones without hearing music or feel satisfied with a few minutes of a song. I’m glad I can make a difference either way. At Hospice, I am fortunate that my violin carries throughout the hallway into different rooms. Honestly, I feel as if my violin was made to play in that environment. I go to Hospice and Walter Reed to play for patients and every note rings…it feels important.

Today I remember going into a room and started to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow for a patient. Her son’s phone rang and he responded to the person on the phone that he was in the room watching his mom die. I wanted to stop playing and say I was sorry for him having to go through this or invading their space. I kept playing for a few more minutes to find myself playing softer and softer as he talked on the phone. My tempo began to crawl and I knew it was time for me to go. I thanked them for my time. I really meant it.

I went into the room of another patient behind the nurse as she administered medication. I stood there with a weary smile as I thought about my experience hearing the son talk on the phone about his mother. I forced myself to be present mentally and to my surprise, the patient seemed vibrant and cheerful. She shared with me her fondness for music and how she loved listening to the violin. I wanted to take advantage of the room’s acoustics so I played Summertime from Porgy and Bess. I love playing this piece on my violin because the major third D to F sharp on the A string have a youthful color and vibrancy to them that I felt at the time would match the woman’s mood and personality. I played two times through then an octave higher. She stopped me after the song and asked what I do for a living. I responded in saying…this. I use my violin to play all over and in daycare for kids and gym classes. She said that God must have given me this talent because people don’t play the way I do for no reason. I asked if I could play one more song and she said of course and that she could just cry…I thought to myself wondering what should I play? When the Saints Go Marching In came to mind. I played two voices at once with double stops and mimicked the range of a male and female voice. I remember smiling as I played and taking care of each note because I wanted to play my best. I wanted that song to matter and to be an important everlasting memory. I’m sure the meds had kicked in because the woman said she wanted to stay awake but now she could sleep. Or maybe that was the music too? What I really remember though was her saying that she would pray for me and the work I do. It hit me then. All I could muster was a thank you and say that I’m coming back to play soon.

I hope she’s still there so I can share more music with her next time.

Violin Concert in Jail

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to be able to give a Violin Concert at the Ordnance Correctional Facility for the inmates and staff. I couldn’t help but feel excited as security checked my equipment and allowed me to wheel my violin on a cart through the checkpoints. As the Lieutenant and Activity Coordinator escorted me, I continued to debate in my mind which piece to begin the concert.

We entered the gymnasium and I only had a few minutes to tune and set up before the inmates entered the room. As I tuned my violin and saw people come in I couldn’t help but crack a smile because I’ve always wanted to play in a Jail. I love bringing music to people. Especially in Nursing Homes, Hospice, Hospitals, and Gyms because I feel as musicians we can make a positive impact through sharing our talents.

The Activity Coordinator told me that male and female inmates are not often allowed in the same room so it was a treat for everyone to be together. After everyone sat down I introduced myself and said that I would play a variety of music ranging from Disney’s Frozen to Queen’s We Are the Champions. I began the concert with Summertime from Porgy and Bess and could feel the atmosphere in the room change as it does in Nursing Homes and Hospitals. Initially, I felt anxious yet in that moment I felt peace and warmth.

As the concert continued I could hear people singing as I played Take Me Out to The Ballgame and applause as I announced that I would play Hey Jude from the Beatles. I remember laughing at one point from the surprised looks I received after I said I would play Free Bird. Yesterday was truly a joy and an experience I’ll never forget. I’m only one person with an acoustic violin yet the entire room sang and stomped their feet to the familiarity of songs from their past. Some of the inmates appreciated Disney’s Frozen because their family would watch the movie together and did not hesitate to belt out the lyrics and dance in their seats.

I shared that my grandmother inspires me to continue playing music in the community and performing familiar songs. She struggles in her journey with Alzheimer’s and can no longer remember anything that happens short-term but can still recall all the words to her favorite hymns such as How Great Thou Art or music from her past.

At the end of the concert, one of the inmates told me her mother had Alzheimer’s and believed music could help families reconnect. Another inmate said she was glad I played music from Charlie Brown and said she had a great time. One inmate shared that he loved Free Bird and that it was one of his favorite songs growing up.

Maybe next time I can come back with a bigger band or actually play The Devil Went Down to Georgia but I learned how much of an impact I can make with my violin and a willing spirit.

Music In Hospice

Every week I go into Hospice to play for patients, never knowing what to expect. At first it seemed awkward and selfish, in a way. Families and dear friends are visiting loved ones during a critical time, and I knock on the door asking to take some of those precious moments away.

Sometimes I'll get a "no thank you," so families and friends can spend the remaining time left. Other times I get to play, and hopefully help create new memories during the final days. Unbeknownst to me, it happened in a beautiful way recently.

A few weeks ago I went into Hospice to play for a patient and performed Edelweiss in a room full of family, a therapy dog, and Hospice staff. It was a beautiful yet heartbreaking moment. After playing, I was asked to play, when the time came for the funeral. Well, today I provided music during the wake, and again I wasn't sure what to expect.

One by one, someone from the family or a dear friend came up to me while I played and asked if I was the person who had played for the person in Hospice. Another family member stopped me in the hallway and said that my playing in Hospice had meant so much to her sister-in-law. I didn't know how to respond but managed to say thank you. I knew that wouldn't suffice, so I said I was really thankful to have been able to play music that she had requested like "You Raise Me Up" and "Ave Maria." With tears in her eyes, this sweet lady whom I had never met gave me a hug and thanked me for the music. In that moment, I thought about my time in Japan and how I would play Japanese folk tunes. After the music, those in the Japanese community talked to me as if I were a friend and no longer a stranger.

Towards the end of the wake I wanted to end with Edelweiss, but before I could begin, another long-time friend had approached me and said she had something important to say. She shared with me that during the final hours of her friend's life, she talked about seeing her dog in heaven and how much she enjoyed the heavenly music. That she mentioned me and my music. Over and over again she spoke of the heavenly music...There I sat with my violin in disbelief. Her friend said that in our final moments, our needs and thoughts become so simple -- yet during those precious moments, she felt it was important to talk about how the music had impacted her.

Yesterday was the end of a beautiful adventure. I was able to play at the funeral service for the Hospice patient who had passed away.

I felt welcomed by the family and no longer a stranger who had gone to play for their mother a few times in Hospice. At the end of the service I played Edelweiss before the casket was to be transported to the burial site. In that moment I truly felt as if I were an instrument being used to help say goodbye.

I walked to the burial site with the husband and priest -- through rain blowing sideways -- but I was determined to play underneath the tent, where her body would reach its final resting place.

There I stood, underneath the tent with violin in hand as I watched the pallbearers slowly bring in the casket. The priest said a prayer and gave me a nod to play..I took a deep breath, and for the final time I played Edelweiss.

Today was a day that I'll never forget. I never thought playing in Hospice would bring me this adventure, but I'm thankful and pray for peace for the family.