The impact is immediate and huge and it shows you why you chose to be an artist.
—Keith Price, guitarist
They're like travelling minstrels, making their way through the lobbies and the wards of CancerCare, St. Boniface Hospital, the Grace Hospital and other healthcare facilities.
They are musicians making a difference, part of an organization called Artists in Healthcare
. The program is founded on the belief that music and arts can play an important role in healing.
"It's meaningful work," says Shirley Grierson, executive director of Artists in Healthcare.
"Being a good musician is half of it. It's not so much about performance as it is about accompanying people on their journey and being appropriate with their music and with their response to what the patients are going through," she says.
for over 7000 patients each month. During the summers, up to nine students perform in a special program funded by Service Canada. And recently a visual arts component has been added, so patients also have the opportunity to create their own art.
Keith Price performing for patients at St. Boniface Hospital (Lois Gillespie)
"The program is amazing," say guitarist Keith Price who has been performing for patients since 2006. "I've learned so much from meeting so many people. And to just really make an impact with music. It's wonderful. It shows the power of music and the human connection."
Just recently, a mother and daughter approached Price in the elevator and asked him to play for the girl's twin sister who was just coming out of surgery. "So I played some tunes and they said 'this is the most relaxed any of us has felt in weeks,'" he said. "The impact is immediate and huge and it shows you why you chose to be an artist. It works the way it's supposed to. We have emotional healing. Together."
Grierson says while the program is a great benefit to patients, their families and healthcare workers, there is a flip side in that musicians are paid for their work and this program provides them with an opportunity to perform during the daytime, when they are not normally working. "It's a significant part of their career," she says.
Guitarist Aaron Schorr has also been playing for patients for several years. He remembers being approached by a cancer patient who said hearing him play helped take her mind off the diagnosis. "From a musician's point of view it's really interesting to see a direct value in what I'm doing for people. Even if it's just them sitting and listening and chatting a little bit, they're focused on something other than their illness."Artists in Healthcare is hoping to get funding from Aviva to expand the program. To do so, they need your votes. You can cast your vote of support here.