This morning at the rehabilitation center I played on several floors. There was much discussion surrounding the storytelling aspect of the Bach suites. Many explained how the music brought them back to a better time in their life. Others described images that were brought to mind, such as walking through forest or an artist painting. Most of the patients don’t regularly listen to classical music, but many mentioned they would like to add some Bach suites to their playlist.
When playing at the cancer center, a woman came up to me as she was leaving and said that she knew God had sent me there to lift her spirits. You have blessed me more that you will ever know was what she said before walking out of the room. What a privilege it is to see music have such a dramatic effect on people throughout the hospital.
One teen asked a series of incredibly thoughtful questions today. He wanted to know how playing affected my mood. This led into a great discussion of the flow of various emotions from one phrase to the next. Further, he asked how my mood affected my playing. From this, we could talk about interpretation, especially in the context of music without words. Following this, I went up to the top floor of the rehabilitation center. As I played on this floor, I noticed that most everyone in the circle (probably 10 total) had their eyes closed during the performance. A man on that floor told me that the music gave him the feeling of being on a walk, stopping to see this and that along the way. There was a girl there as well, probably in her early 20’s, who was wrapped in a blanket. As I played, she started to tell me about her songwriting projects and dream of being a singer/songwriter. She was a piano player, but could not play because of hand injuries (she proceeded to show me her bandaged hands.) After I was finished, she said that hearing the music really opened her eyes, and reassured her that things were going to be different when she was released.
Today I played in two rehab center groups, one for teens and the other for adults. When I arrived at the main hospital, I was thrilled to see a stack of requests to play in individual units- it seems that the word of the Healing Arts Program is getting around the hospital units. In one unit, I met for a second time a patient who I had seen in the cancer center on Tuesday. He is a multi-instrumentalist who has such a genuine love for all types of music. He wouldn't stop thanking me for coming and playing in the hospital. Another highlight was getting to play in the neurotrauma PCU, which according to the staff, does not usually host instrumental music.
While playing in the south lobby today, I met a woman who informed me that her 92 year old friend in the ER did not have any family in the area or anyone else to be with her while she waited for care. Once I received a thumbs up from the emergency department, I went to her room and introduced myself. I asked if she would like to hear some music and her reply was, "depends on what kind of music." When I pointed to the cello case, she smiled and nodded. I must have played for at least a half hour. Whenever I finished a piece, she would open her eyes and ask for one more.
I started my day by playing for the teens in the rehab center and according to the therapists the performance went as well as they could have ever hoped. I then worked with an adult group who were incredibly engaged and full of great questions. While at the main hospital, I received a request to play for a patient who was paralyzed and on a respirator. Though he couldn’t speak, spelling from a board he requested that I play “Amazing Grace.” His wife was with him and said they had been in the hospital for several months. Hearing music seemed to lift both of their spirits.
Today, I performed alongside the Carilion employee art show in the south lobby. Seeing everyone entering and leaving the hospital - from doctors and nurses to patients, family and friends - makes me think of all the different types of healing going on in this facility. I hope that hearing music improves that process for them.
I began the day with a set of performances in the rehabilitation center. The first was for teens staying for treatment. They were an energetic group but seemed to enjoy playing percussion instruments to accompany the Bach suites I performed. As always, they were filled with questions such as "why do you move your head when you play?" and "how do you know where the notes are?" the second performance was for a group of teenagers, who were asked to respond to my performance by creating paintings. It was fascinating to hear what slow and fast movements brought to their mind, and how those thoughts and emotions played themselves out in their artwork.