Program benefits patients, performers
Post Independent Staff
Not often does classical pianist Zachariah Milby play Beethoven’s “Für Elise” in a performance while a gurney rolls by him.
Tuesday the 16-year-old musician found that mobile hospital beds, patients in wheelchairs and nurses on the go are all part of participating in Valley View Hospital’s Holistic Harmony music program. Monthly concerts take place on selected Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Healing Garden and acute care floor of the hospital.
“I hope I brought auditory stimulation,” said Milby, a Bridges High School student who hopes to attend Yale. He said he hopes it will help speed along patients’ recovery.
Milby’s mother, Leslie Means, his stepfather, and his 13-year-old brother, Josh, joined Milby, who has performed at the Hotel Colorado and The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, for the performance on the hospital’s acute care floor.
“I’m a ’60s and ’70s kid, but he was born that way,” Means said of her son’s appreciation for classical music. “He just plays for his own joy.”
Means said Milby sharpened his musical skills, which include playing the violin and the piano, by attending the Waldorf School from fourth through eighth grade.
“He’s a determined child,” she said. “The Waldorf School is where he picked up his love for the piano and the violin, too.”
Lesa Russo, a registered nurse and music coordinator for the program, which launched on June 14, said Milby’s music was in line with the hospital’s philosophy of providing holistic and integrative medicine to patients.
“We want to look at the patient as a person and not look at the patient as a diagnosis or a number,” she said. “We know music is very healing.”
Of the five musicians who have performed as part of the Holistic Harmony series, all would like to return, Russo said.
“The thing is, everyone who has played here, they all have walked away with something,” she said. “Pierce Littler, our 13-year-old violinist, he left in tears. He was playing down the halls and an elderly patient wanted him to come into her room and she was telling him stories. She laid in bed singing ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart.’ He left in tears.”
Bev Zanella, an acute-care patient recovering from lung surgery last Thursday, also enjoyed Tuesday’s piano performance.
“I heard the music and I thought somebody had it on a music channel,” she said. “It sure takes your mind off what else is going on.”
Zanella’s husband, Bob, former mayor of Glenwood Springs, agreed.
“The music aims at the psychological aspect of healing,” he said. “Just like prayer.”
During the Holistic Harmony dedication in June, Valley View chaplain Patty Harris said she has witnessed the healing qualities of music and was grateful to Russo and the founding members of the program for bringing it to the hospital.
“While we cannot begin to know the full extent of another’s pain and suffering, fears and need, we attempt through programs such as this to come beside those hospitalized,” Harris said. “Music helps us connect with memories, associations and thoughts that help us feel nurtured and more relaxed. The recognition of a familiar hymn or a favorite tune to those who are bedridden or depressed can help reduce anxiety and pain, and further research is showing (it can) even help decrease the medications that help patients deal with such suffering.”
Musicians interested in volunteering for the Holistic Harmonies program may contact Russo at 309-1701. Applications are available at the Health Source library at 2001 Blake Ave., Suite A, across from the hospital.
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