7117 different languages are spoken today worldwide, but MUSIC has got them all covered. After playing Medical Centers in 7 countries around the globe, we were happy to add our 6th U.S. State hospital piano earlier this week, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St Petersburg, Florida.
Hospital piano encounters can be quite rewarding: the joy of bringing joy, the relief of mitigating grief, a mixture of both with just one song is no exception… It can be emotional at times for both player and audience – a GOOD thing – so if you really want to get into it, come prepared and conscious of your own state of mind.
What’s different playing in a hospital?
- Not a single person around you is there for FUN – Staff is working, patients either await medical treatment or recover from it, where visitors might drop in with a mix of feelings.
- Public space in a state of serenity – You might have played dozens of malls, market squares or railway stations without ever breaking the sound of silence. In a hospital lobby, your tone, your volume and non-verbal communication can make the difference between making life-long friends and hospital Security tapping your shoulder before the end of the first bar
What’s to gain?
When aiming for mass appreciation, you probably might want to try somewhere else. If just one smile, a kind nod, a brief moment of connection, a warm hand would be good enough for you, stay with us. The magic won’t always happen, but these are a few cherished encounters over the years:
- Cleveland (US-OH) – Just in front of main entrance, a sign saying “Welcome Veterans” triggers me to play Good Night Saigon – Billy Joel. While playing, someone parks a bicycle behind me but doesn’t move on. When I finish the song, I turn around and a gentleman grabs my hand with both of his, tears in his eyes. The only thing we’ll ever exchange are his words “Thank you brother, God bless you” before he wipes his face and makes his way inside. Man, I DO feel blessed for a moment.
- Florence (US-SC) – I’m playing a beautifully art-worked piano in a desolated waiting room, when a young man walks in and non-verbally asks for permission to film the scene. Two songs and a few minutes later, we are joined by what appears to be his family, given their conversation behind me. Upon finishing the song, the young man stops filming and proudly announces to be the artist of this particular piano. What follows: mutual respect, warm hands and cold drinks for all of us in the adjacent cafeteria.
- New York (US-NY) – It must be close to 100°F even in the shadow, when a gentleman with an orthopedic cast approaches me with a question: “Are you a piano teacher?”. Although NO would be the correct answer, I don’t hesitate to make room and welcome him to my right. 20 minutes later, I can’t recall ever seeing a bigger smile when he near-flawlessly finishes the one-finger upper part of a 3 handed duet. During this time, he practically tells me his whole life-story and in retrospect, I guess we should have played the Blues together. Fact is: one homeless New Yorker shows signs of pride, when we play the same song together, again… and again! I thank HIM when we shake hands another 30 minutes later.
- St Petersburg (US-FL) – A young lady, a toddler really, her right arm in plaster, wiggled to my previous song, holding her mother’s hand. I can’t resist the invitation to play a ragtime to see what happens. Neither of us both gets disappointed 😉 A smile from her mother, 3 minutes of wiggling from a little dancing queen, man I’m happy.