Last season, Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute began its Musical Connections program, providing free musical performances, workshops, and residencies in hospitals, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and senior-services organizations in New York City. Through its partnership with Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, Musical Connections events have included in-room patient visits, atrium concerts, waiting-area visits, two large public performances in Jacobi's Rotunda, and a songwriting residency for teenage patients. As Barbara DeIorio—hospital spokesperson for the Musical Connections partnership—explains, the ideal of creating a "musical hospital" is finally coming to fruition.
What inspired this pursuit of creating a "musical hospital"?There is a wealth of evidence to support the theory that music plays a significant role in reducing anxiety, and easing pain and suffering for both patients and staff. Time and again, we have witnessed how music not only soothes patients and distraught families, but also eases the stress and anxiety of those who provide for their care. But we had other reasons for pursuing this yearlong partnership with Carnegie Hall. As a major public health institution, we are committed to the provision of safe, high quality, unrestricted care at an affordable cost for a large urban patient population. The challenges we face in doing so are significant. Many of our patients suffer from the effects of poverty, poor health literacy, chronic disease, cultural barriers, and social disenfranchisement. Finding ways to drive meaningful and lasting messages deeply into the community we serve is an effort that takes considerable time, resources, creativity, and skill.How has Musical Connections helped to address that problem? Through this partnership, we offer a series of performances to the community at large. By coupling these performances with health information—nutrition education, smoking cessation, stroke screening, women’s health services, HIV screening, and flu vaccination—we are able to extend our reach and entice even greater numbers of community residents. Not only do they enjoy a live musical experience, but they also receive important health information and the screenings they need. How has Musical Connections expanded at Jacobi?In addition to a full schedule of performances in various patient-care venues, we have embarked on a new longer-term project that features a 10-week compositional workshop with HIV infected or affected teens. It wasn’t very long ago that an HIV-positive diagnosis represented a death sentence for these kids. Now the success of new therapies in the treatment protocols that our clinicians use makes the promise of a bright and healthy future a reality for them. Through this workshop, they have a musical outlet to focus on their fears, hopes, and dreams—just like any normal teens.What has been your patients' response to Jacobi's partnership with Carnegie Hall? And what about the hospital staff's response?For many of our patients, the opportunity to hear live music is rare. Infusing the healthcare experience with music is at once a novelty and a delight. Patients overwhelmingly respond to these musical performances with appreciation and gleeful enthusiasm. And the staff looks forward to these performances as a way to relax and enjoy a peaceful moment in what is generally a busy and stressful workday. If "laughter is the best medicine," what role does music serve in the wellness process? We continue to discover the many ways in which music enhances and augments good medical care. We have seen for ourselves the power of music in helping to calm anxiety, diminish fear, relieve tension, promote communication, and underscore important health information. Music can be a valuable feature of a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to good patient care. It's both a catalyst to the process of becoming well and the envelope that delivers the messages that teach people how to stay that way. When you are fortunate to watch oneof these in-hospital performances and you see the delight on a pediatric patient's face as she gently explores the strings of an artist's violin, when you see the worry lines on a cancer patient's forehead smooth during an infusion, when you hear a young HIV patient's innermost hopes and dreams put into lyrics for a song, when you watch harried staff smile and clap in time to a rhythm, you can appreciate the synergistic power inherent to incorporating music into the process of alleviating pain and restoring health.