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.