I walk into a large waiting room; people see me and wait without much expression. I introduce myself, and offer to play a few pieces for them while they wait. There are smiles here and there as I play and light applause between pieces, even from the staff at the registration desks behind me. We are in the infusion center waiting room. People sometimes sit here for hours. I invite them to visit our Arts In Medicine Studio where they can participate in a variety of expressive arts activities. I leave, feeling that my day is off to a good start, and that their day is a little different.
I am rolling my bass down the hallway; I make it a point to smile and make eye contact with everyone I pass in the hallway. After all it is hard to ignore an double bass rolling down the hall. There are giggles when none of us knows which path to choose. Doctors, nurses, administrators, patients, visitors, lift team, transport, environmental…all know me and my bass. Sometimes they are surprised when they see me without it. “Where is your large friend? I am not used to seeing you without it. Almost didn’t recognize you!”
Arriving at the radiology waiting room, I am doing essentially the same routine as before, but it is more intimate. There are people very nearby who can feel the bass right up close and we are interacting. One man nearby asks me for something jazzy. I play an arrangement of Let It Be that I have written, and he is moving with the music, smiling and enjoying himself. In fact most everyone is enjoying themselves. I look around as I play and notice two youngsters, maybe two and four with their young mother and we see each other from all the way across the long room and we lock eyes and smile and giggle a little together. In between pieces they wave to me. Their mom looks happy.
I check my email in the Arts In Medicine Studio and I move on to my main work of the day: Visiting patients one on one in the main hospital. Recently I have been spending a lot of time playing in one small lounge area for one or a few people at a time. I try to get to the units, but so many patients are out walking, getting their exercise, that this has become an ideal place to play for them outside the rooms. One patient and his wife have listened here at least three times now, and they seemings never get tired of listening to me play. That makes me feel great! Today they are sharing me with another family member and he is asking me a few questions, about my instrument, the pieces I am playing and so on. He is really relaxed and engaged. Finally I say thank you for listening to me, and move on to the unit.
Before I even get there, I am stopped by the spouse of a very special patient. We have developed a really warm rapport even though we really don’t have a great deal of conversation. He simply makes it abundantly clear that he considers listening to me play live here at the hospital to be a wonderful, enriching experience that he does not wish to miss, under almost any circumstance. We have had visits in the lounge and visits at the bedside. He is patient, attentive and kind, warm and considerate, and I do my best to emulate him. I take my time and do my best to play the most wonderful music I know, in the best way I know, allowing myself to be inspired by his warmth and appreciation. This is one of the marvelous phenomena that occur in this work. I am inspired by the people I play for. Each one is unique and they inform me by their presence what and how I must play. I must trust my mind and my intuition to know how to do this, moment by moment. What better training for any musician!!! Today this man is being discharged, in fact, in a matter of minutes. (we hope!) He is reorganizing all his cards and wallet, and seems a little distracted and preoccupied, yet he welcomes music once again, and settles down to accept the gift with his whole heart and mind. I encourage him to call my office to locate me when he visits the hospital as an outpatient and give him a card with the extension. If he calls and I can find him, I will play for him again, wherever he is in the facility. I bid him and his wife adieu.
On this same unit is a woman who wants to hear country or folk music. She asks me to play something from around Tennessee. I know one turn-of-the-century waltz that might fit the bill. I have been planning to record this, in fact tomorrow, with my music partner Ray, and until now have not felt comfortable with the piece, not really. But this woman, and they way she speaks to me, her pose, everything I sense tells me how to play this piece, finally! I take my time, slide into a few notes, make it like a hot night with torches flaming and a dance floor outside beneath the porch. It is such a relief to finally make sense of this music for myself, and it is she who has taught me how to play it. Remarkable!
There are a couple of other visits, one with an extraordinary patient who is a master massage therapist. She says that it doesn’t matter what I play, because each piece I make my own, and special. That makes me feel great! She is looking forward to being in remission, strong and healthy and treating my aching shoulder with her master massage skills. She says that there is a reason we met. I can’t wait!
On my way out, two nurses tell me now much they enjoyed the music and that they really look forward to my visits, in fact that it just about makes their day. That makes me feel GREAT! Well, it has been a beautiful day. What a great job I have. Thanks to God and to everyone who had a hand in that. I am grateful to all of you. Good night!