Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A week in the life of a therapeutic musician

In the space of a week, I have a diverse range of experiences bringing music to hospital patients and people with disabilities.  There was the day at the hospital I was playing on an ICU unit and was asked to play outside of a room full of people. A big family surrounded this patient and I could see that something big happened. People were crying and embracing and huddled together. After awhile, a woman came out and said, "Hi, I know you from my school."    I nodded hello and smiled to acknowledge her as I continued to play soft instrumental guitar music.  Then she said, "My father passed away today! " and she pointed to his room and began to sob. I said, "I'm so sorry" and looked away to give her space and I kept playing quietly. It can be hard to see people in these kinds of moments but it is also an honor. I am often placed into people's lives at a crossroad or a major rite of passage.

The next day found me in totally different circumstances where I played for a group of young adults with developmental disabilities.  I could see they were in the mood to be silly, so I got out some Madlibs I made up to create our own funny songs. Here's the one everyone liked the best:

"My spaghetti skied over the mountain
my spaghetti skied over the pool
my spaghetti skied over the mountain
now bring my spaghetti to me..."

(To the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean")

I even ended up telling some Christmas jokes. (That's because those are the only jokes I know)

Q: Why is Santa good at Karate
A: Because he has a black belt

You see? There is grief one day and laughter the next. Music has a place in our hearts for every kind of situation.

Monday, March 21, 2016

VSA Art Show and Community

Each year  VSA Arts  has an art show featuring local artists with disabilities.   It is one of my favorite events of the whole year!  I love to see their creative art pieces framed and hung on the walls of the local recreation center. You can usually meet the proud artist standing underneath their work who will tell you all about their piece. I provide instrumental guitar music as a backdrop to the gathering of local artists, friends and family members who have come to support VSA.

When it's time for the speakers to come and say a few words about VSA and the participants, I am so struck with how proud I feel to be a part of this community. Some of these artists are people I have known since the early 1990s.

Music and art are what bring people together, sharing memories and creating more.  When I see the news on TV and watch the presidential election coverage,  I see how much negativity we have in our world now. Then when I look at the art that my friends have made and see their smiles and pride beaming, I am overcome with how grateful I feel to be a part of something that brings joy to others.

This night was a rainy night but that did not stop people from coming. I was standing with the two of my artist friends when a man came up to ask about the art show.  I told him all about VSA and introduced them to my friends who proudly showed them their paintings. He brightened when he saw their works of art and when he saw they were for sale, he asked, "How can I go about purchasing these?"   I led him to the desk where payments for the art were being made. Earlier, before this man came, I had just been talking the artists about what they planned to do with the money they made from the sale of their pieces. "Go to Outback for dinner!" one of them replied.

A delightful thing we have going here in my town and I'm so proud to be a part of it!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

We'll keep that a secret...

Playing music for older adults with Alzheimer's and dementia can be challenging at times but in the long run, it is all worth the effort.  There is one woman where I play who yells things out as I play relaxing instrumental music on my classical guitar. "Turn that music off! It's awful! That's enough of that." Is what she says about every five minutes all through the hour. But would you look at that view in the picture above? This is in Madison county and the home where this woman yells at me is. I don't take offense at this because she is ill and maybe her saying that is the only way she can have a sense of control in her life.

There are also some surprises that can happen too. The other day I was singing and playing for one group I play for once a month. At the end of our sing along session, one of the ladies said to me, "You are a very sweet person." I said, "what a nice thing to say, thank you." She said, "You are." Then I said, "Thank you, it takes one to know one. " She blushed then and said, "Well...I guess that is true." Then she gave a mischievous smile and said, "We'll keep that a secret."

Not only was this an endearing encounter it was also a surprise because when this woman was new at this home, she would plug her ears and tell me to go away and yell out, "Make it stop!" This went on for a couple of months.  I am not sure what made her decide I was alright but we are apparently friends now.

There are all kinds of things like this I see in my work and it still is the best job I've ever had.