I have met and played music with James (name changed) several times while he has been receiving treatment in hospital. Our first encounter was on my second day as an OPUS Apprentice and remains one of my most memorable experiences so far. James’s Dad saw us coming down the corridor and, after checking with James, invited us in. As the three of us entered his room James greeted us and asked my name as I was new. After a brief sizing-up of our instruments James began leading us in a musical improvisation. Eyes shut with concentration he conducted us effortlessly, without hesitation, his every hand gesture full with musical expression, which we followed with equal focus. Often he would sing out and whoop and we would respond and riff on his signals. It was wonderful to see someone so completely engrossed in what they were doing artistically, beyond all sense of ego. He channelled every part of himself into creating the music he wanted to hear. The joy and satisfaction we were feeling resonated through the room and out into the corridor, prompting nurses and James’s Dad to look round the corner, smiling and nodding their heads. “That’s James” his father said as we left, with look of pride.
For the next few weeks I found myself secretly ‘hoping’ to see James, so we might relive our great musical encounter. I felt that perhaps this was a selfish thought, as he was hopefully out of hospital and living his life. This is something that happens so often with music; the wanting of those great moments all the time. Yet my role as a Musician in Healthcare demands so much more than this. The hospital is a challenging, ever-changing place where no two visits are the same. A patient’s conditions can fluctuate, on one visit they might feel like music, the next visit their door maybe shut, the lights out and with little sign of activity.
For me, James’s playing demonstrated so clearly the principles we work by as Music in Healthcare practitioners. To be open and generous with the music we make, sometimes playing, listening, and with sensitivity and a feeling of wellbeing within ourselves.
Dave McKenny, Music in Healthcare Apprentice, OPUS Music CIC