Holistic Harmony celebrates three years of music for patients | PostIndependent.com

Holistic Harmony celebrates three years of music for patients

Nonprofit Spotlight
Kay Vasilakis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kay Vasilakis

Valley View Hospital’s Holistic Harmony music program will be celebrating its third anniversary from 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 31, in the upper lobby.

The event will be an elegant evening, showcasing 16 of the 40 musicians with 21⁄2 hours of continuous music, demonstrating the diversity of music used to comfort and entertain patients. The Holistic Chorus will be introduced, and hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served. Tickets can be purchased at the hospital gift shop. For more information, call 384-6651.

The program has made a fun compilation CD of several hospital musicians; the CD will be for sale the night of the anniversary.

Lesa Russo, of the hospital’s acute rehab unit, manages the Holistic Harmony program. It took about a year to get a good base of musicians, and now she has 40 local musicians with which to schedule performances. Three musicians per week play in waiting areas, the Family Birth Place, ICU, day surgery, cancer center and room-to-room. They are dedicated to the program, and they receive as much from giving as the patients get in receiving. The program has a great selection of genres and instruments, including violin, flute, recorders, harp, classical guitar, cello and folk singers.

Russo was not surprised with the great response the program has received.

“Anything with good intention will be a success,” said Russo confidently. “Music has been proven to heal, and can calm and decrease pain.”

“In almost every room we go into, the patients break down and cry,” she said. “The patients try to be stoic and brave, but hospitalization is great stressor. The patients feel safe with the musicians, they feel comforted, and it’s OK for them to show their emotions. They talk to us about their feelings, their stresses, their home life and their fears, and they thank us for bringing them that safe haven and allowing them to let down their guard.”

The Holistic Harmony added the Holistic Chorus to its program in 2008. Approximately 20 chorus members practice every Wednesday evening in the Valley View Hospital lobby. Chorus members sing in a group to a person who is transitioning into death. This is not the same as singing in a concert or in other situations. The type of music, volume and attention to every detail lend to the awareness of the patient’s needs. It is a very emotional gift, and it takes a great deal of commitment.

The chorus recently added a new facet to its repertoire. Some of the chorus members arrived early one night, and started singing “Are you sleeping, Brother John?” in a round. It sounded so beautiful, they decided to sing it to newborn babies and their parents.

“It is cool for the chorus members, because they know this is the first music the babies have heard,” said Russo. “It is very emotional for first-time parents, who appreciate someone is giving them this special gift.”

Thirteen chorus members went into the room of a 3-year-old pneumonia patient who had been hospitalized for 10 days and was irritable and crying. They sang, and she stopped crying. The chorus also sang to a new mom and her premature baby in the NICU.

“One of our chorus members sang her a Spanish lullaby one-on-one. When we left, we could hear her mother singing the same Spanish song to her.”

“I’ve made great relationships with these musicians and chorus members,” said Russo. “They’re a part of my life. I feel privileged to be in a room with closed doors with the musicians and experience the impact music has on their hospital stay.”

Holistic Harmony would like any patients who have experienced a musician’s visit to share their stories.

Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” column runs every other Wednesday. She is the media coordinator for the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her, call 384-9118 or e-mail kvasilakis@postindependent.com.

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