Kurt Vonnegut is my hero.
I’ve read nearly every one of Kurt Vonnegut’s books. I love his wry humor and oddball social commentary. So it goes.
This Vonnegut quote was circulating on my Facebook feed this week, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
Making art can feel lonely and pointless. All artists (and I include musicians in the broad artist category) have dark times of self-doubt. But whether you are making money as an artist or consider it a hobby, you are making something. Perhaps it will not matter to anyone but you. Nonetheless, there is a deep human urge to create something from nothing.
As a mother, I feel it is my job to help my kids grow souls. My children both study music, but it’s not because I want them to become soloists with symphonies across the world. They study music to broaden their lives, to connect emotionally, and to develop a sharp mind.
Every week I teach several music and movement classes for families with preschool children. I end my music classes for families with this blessing:
“Wherever you go, keep a song in your heart.”
Music as Medicine: Healing Tunes.
When I was an undergraduate at The Ohio State University, the flute studio was involved in a collaboration with the hospital. We worked with a researcher on a study about increasing air capacity with the regular use of an inspirometer. The flute students were asked to keep a log of our use of the device and our lung capacities were measured in the lab before and after using the device.
Another part of the collaboration involved the Flute Troupe being invited to perform at the opening ceremony for the cancer memorial garden on campus. I was very honored to take part in that beautiful outdoor ceremony.
The flute studio worked for a couple of years on various projects linking music and healing. The project that I remember most vividly was being asked to play at the hospital. Our flute troupe played in the lobby once or twice for the people in the waiting room. It seemed to make the mood lighter and help anxious loved ones pass the time while they waited for news.
Individually, we prepared unaccompanied solo music to play in the surgery recovery area. I remember going by myself to University Hospital and being led back into a space where people were waking up after cancer surgery. Gurneys were being rolled in and out, there were beeps of monitors, and nurses were busy tending to patients. I played “Syrinx” and some Irish tunes. I improvised peaceful music. I’d like to think that maybe someone waking up from surgery was comforted by the sounds of the flute. That experience changed me. I found a quiet in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital. I felt like I had something special to offer, that maybe my music would be meaningful to someone. Some of the nurses smiled. I hope that it was comforting to them and I hope I wasn’t in the way of their very important work.
The belief in music and healing continues to inform my playing.
Years later, I would play my flute for my grandmother when she was in the hospital. When my grandfather was at the end of his life, my sister and I sang at his bedside. More recently, I sang to my father-in-law when he was in his final hours. Bringing music into these sacred spaces felt good, human, comforting.
So when I came across an article about the use of Sufi music in Turkish hospitals, I felt an immediate connection and wanted to share my story with you, dear reader.
In Turkey, Sufi music is used to decrease patient stress.
Do you have a story about music and healing? Perhaps a time that music was medicine to you? Please share!