Musical Medicine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

      Every Friday afternoon, I step off the school bus and into the world of musical healing. I am a volunteer for Arts in Medicine (AIM), a program that emphasizes the importance of the arts in the healing process. AIM helps patients paint and enjoy dramatic performances, as well as listen to music.

I play the piano each week for patients, employees, and anyone who wants to listen. Anything and everything is part of my repertoire: Chopin, Bach, Disney music, Schumann, hymns. I try to use my piano skills to help others. The music is a way for me to communicate with those who live and work at the hospital. Even a smile and simple “Thank you” from a woman in a wheelchair is enough to tell me I’ve done what is right.

As a volunteer, I have the opportunity to comfort people who are going through difficult times. I give them a chance to speak about their experiences, and relieve the burden of carrying all the pain alone.

Once, a man with his left arm in a sling sat beside me as I played. As it came time to turn the page, he reached up to do it at the perfect moment. I asked if he played piano and he replied that he had been a concert pianist. His mother had been a piano teacher and taught him to play. By the time he was 16, he was performing with symphonies across Europe, but it was while at private parties and events that he realized passion for the instrument is more important than technical skill. If no one listened to you, how would you justify playing?

“I think it’s wonderful you do this for the hospital,” he said. “It shows you really love piano, and people. You play so beautifully, too, and it’s because I know you really care. And believe me, I would know,” he chuckled, looking like a gray-bearded Santa Claus.

I asked why his arm was in the sling and his face fell a little. A stroke had paralyzed his left upper body. He had just had surgery to try to regain use of his left arm, but it hadn’t worked. Without him telling me, I knew he would never play the piano again.

With a forced optimism that amazed me, he said that as long as he could listen to others play, he would be content. With that, he asked me to continue and so I began “Perfect Happiness.” The man sat beside me, watching the notes on the page. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see his fingers moving.

After a few minutes, he got up and walked back to his room, humming the tune. I didn’t even know his name, but in AIM, names aren’t terribly important. It’s the music, and the stories, that count.

AIM has led me to believe in the power of music to patch holes in the heart. For me, it’s a chance to meet incredible people who are often undergoing painful procedures, but who are able to share in my music. AIM has taught me that more than having others listen to me, I can help by listening to them. If we all listen to each other, we will appreciate one another more. The feeling of wholeness created by this understanding is the most amazing part of my volunteer work.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 9 at 9:17 pm
i love this so much!
PurpleInkPen said...
Feb. 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm
Wow, this is EXACTLY the sort of service program I am looking for-- I play the piano too. Good for you for doing this. 
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