On Monday afternoon, I gave what was probably the most peculiar and special concert of my life. I performed alone in my bedroom, for an audience of one - someone I don’t know, couldn’t see, and will never meet, who was lying in a hospital bed in Brooklyn.
Our facilitator told me that the patient was shy, so our FaceTime call was audio-only. I started playing solo Bach. This was also the first time in a long time that I felt so joyful while playing - perhaps because it was my first chance to share somewhat-live music since the lockdown started in NYC.
I had heard the patient talking to our facilitator in Spanish, so after a few movements of Bach, I introduced myself in Spanish. She started speaking to me in English.
She told me that she was very sick. She said that the music was helping her see flowers. She said it brought back memories of her family from over 40 years ago. She felt as if she were a young kid, dancing for her grandmother and pretending she was a famous ballerina. (I scrambled to write all these thoughts down while she spoke!) Later, our facilitator texted me, saying she had told him she felt like she was in a dream.
I asked her why she thought the music was so transportive. She said, “I think the music opens your mind. You feel more...there.”
As a classically trained musician I’ve spent a lot of time feeling purposeless - in patches throughout my life, but most strongly in the last 2+ months. Today I was able to connect with a sick patient who needed a bit of escape from their hospital room. We were over 100 miles apart, dependent on iffy WiFi connections and the schedule of the generous facilitator. But we shared the most intimate experience -- in live performance you don’t often get a 1:1 ratio. As I played, my music was for her, and it was about her.
Project: Music Heals Us is creating connections like these between musicians and patients. Check them out and support their work if you can. Thanks to Molly Carr, Andrew Janss, Brian J. Hong for making this happen. Click here for the article in the NYTimes about this program.
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