Musicians On Call

Connexeo - 02/10/2018

People recovering in a hospital are very likely to need some cheering up. One way to do that is through music. That’s why the non-profit Musicians on Call was established in 1999 and continues to grow.

Now operating in 14 metros, Musicians On Call sends volunteer musicians of all genres to the bedsides of hospital patients to help with their recoveries. The organization states that its volunteers have performed for more than 500,000 people in its history and more than 66,000 in 55 hospitals during 2016.

The organization raised more than $1.4 million in 2016 to fund itself, with the largest donors contributing around $100,000, according to the group’s 2016 financial statements, which are available on its website.

“Music is this wonderful tool that can change and shape your day, your mood, your memories. Because of those reasons, there was no choice but to bring music to people that need it most.” said Michael Solomon, co-founder of Musicians On Call, about why he and co-founder Vivek Tiwary established the organization.

Solomon had just lost a dear friend to cancer. She had requested a fund be established in her name to further cancer research, so Solomon and his friend’s parents staged a concert for patients at the hospital in which she was treated. Tiwary, another friend of Solomon’s whose parents had recently died of cancer, attended the event.

Solomon and Tiwary arranged for more such concerts, and at times, the musicians were asked to visit bedridden patients’ rooms. These visits were successful and Musicians On Call was formed. As an added bonus, Solomon’s late friend’s mother was Bruce Springsteen’s manager: “The Boss” helped with early fundraising efforts. More recently, top-selling artists such as Rachel Platten (“Fight Song”) and Terri Clark (“You’re Easy on the Eyes”) have performed in hospitals in conjunction with the group.

The organization’s website states that live music can help relieve issues such as high blood pressure, stress and pain, as well as help patients express feelings, access memories, and improve their emotional outlook.

One volunteer spotlighted by Musicians on Call, Cindy Weir of Phoenix, helps out at a Veterans Administration hospital and likes to play her original songs at these sessions. 

“They really seem to look forward to the new music I create. In fact, they inspire it,” Weir said. “My favorite quote from the patients is, ‘Ahh that’s so nice, now who wrote that?’ Truly, the kindest compliment…especially when I get to tell them it was me.”

Veterans are one of the organization’s key constituencies, with relationships formed at many VA hospitals across the country. In Nashville, Musicians on Call even teamed up with the Grand Ole Opry, and country stars such as Keith Urban have popped up with surprise hospital visits.

Musicians on Call currently operates in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, DC. The organization announced late last year that it would extend into New Orleans during 2018.

But the program can extend far beyond that. Musicians on Call also offers virtual performances, in which videotaped performances are played at patients’ bedside. It has also established a “Music Pharmacy,” in which patients receive Bose headphones, Amazon Fire tablets ready to use and mix tapes of 200 specially curated songs available on a free Pandora Plus account.

The program launch in New York featured country star Luke Bryan giving a bedside performance before delivering the Pharmacy equipment to the hospital.

Of course, Musicians On Call isn’t the only organization offering music therapy in hospitals. The American Music Therapy Association is a clearinghouse for people who wish to study to become music therapists, learn about music therapy advances and policy, and find a music therapy job.

Hospitals offer nutrition counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy and pastoral visits to their patients. But the underutilized benefits of music therapy can often make a big difference in a patient’s recovery. Musicians On Call and other such organizations help fill that need.




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