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  • Writer's picturePat Clark

Visiting Musician: Playing Music for Nursing Home Residents Who Share a Room

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

This post was composed by Lowell Moore, pictured to the right.

Recently I took a specialized course in playing my #mountaindulcimer from Lorinda Jones – a Music Therapist. In that class, I learned to provide #comfortandcaremusic for people in #nursinghomes, Hospice, and hospitals. The class culminated with a site visit to a nursing home / rehab center.

The staff knew we were coming and facilitated our musical visits. The activities director invited me to play my music in a double room. I introduced myself. “I’m Lowell, and I am taking a course in dulcimer playing at Western Carolina University.” After introductions, and according to our class protocol, I asked permission to play some music for the two residents I will call “Darlene” and “Betsy.”

Darlene was sitting up in her bed and was alert. Betsy was lying down in her bed with her back to me. Betsy did not respond to my question, and I never saw her face during my visit. Darlene said it was fine to go ahead and play so I sat down and played “September on the Mississippi,” a beautiful tune written for the dulcimer. I was really playing it to get myself comfortable more than anything else. Then, I asked Darlene what types of music she liked and she said Country and Western were her favorites. I knew a few songs in that genre and played them to her smiles. I noticed a picture of a sunflower on the wall with the caption “You Are My Sunshine.” Darlene said she had painted the sunflower so, of course, we sang as I played, “You Are My Sunshine.” Running low on country songs, I resorted to taking “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and playing it with a loping rhythm, reminiscent of riding a horse. I told Darlene to pretend she was in the saddle. This suggestion stimulated stories from Darlene about her love of horses and her riding days and created an unexpected connection between us. About this time, I noticed Betsy - still with her back to me - bobbing her head in time to the music. Betsy appeared to be on the trail with Darlene and me!

I felt blessed to have been with these two ladies. The thought that my music brought them some small joy filled my heart with gladness.

Finally, it was time to go. I had lost track of time. One of the staff had to tell me my group had moved to another section. As our group prepared to leave, the Charge Nurse said that in response to our visit, she observed people smiling whom she had never seen smile before. Perhaps the Charge Nurse had become a believer in the power of music.

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