Volunteers share the healing power of song

January 29, 2007
In a small, one-window office on New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s oncology unit, five women gather closely with sheet music in hand.

“We need a ‘middle C’ or we’re going to be in trouble on the last line,” belts Barbara Guy before breaking into the anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Trouble averted, the song speeds to a smooth, melodious finish, enveloping the room in a pleasant, exhilarating buzz that resonates in the hands, knees and toes.

It’s a feeling these volunteer singers - called The Therapeutics - are well-known for, a feeling joyfully shared with patients every Thursday morning.

“Music lifts the spirit and brings hope,” said Shirley Anderson, a singer with the group for more than six years. “We’ve been able to bring a lot of care and joy to people.”

The Therpapeutics, a group of five women and two men, are part of NHRMC’s Healing Arts Network, which promotes healing through expressive arts. The group uses music and song to assist patients’ healing.

“Those patients who choose songs, listen to, and sometimes sing along with The Therapeutics, clearly benefit from the experience,” said Maureen Dugan a Healing Arts coordinator.

A universal art form, music, especially a familiar song or rift, helps elicit memories in patients that can be used to open pathways of communication with friends and family, Dugan said. Amplifying the group’s healing vibes are guitar strummers John Golden and Curtis Campbell.

“It can be quite an emotional experience,” Dugan said.

Karen Hansen, who’s been singing with the group for nine years, said the group’s music-making ministry has also brought its members close together.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch it grow and become really cohesive,” she said. “This ministry is the best thing I do with my life.”

“We do a lot of good for people, but what we really get back for ourselves is highly important,” said six-year veteran Carol Chanowsky.

At first, she worried that volunteering at the hospital would tie up her schedule, but that quickly changed when she began with The Therapeutics..

“Once I started …it became a high priority,” Chanowsky said.

Christmas carols are what first brought Linda Nicks to the group. Now she marvels at the power from songs such as Amazing Grace and I’ll Fly Away.

“We’re on sacred ground in these rooms,” she said. The impact over patients and their families has resulted in some remarkable moments, Barbara Guy said.

“We saw one patient get out of bed to comfort her husband who became tearful when we sang,” she said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else on Thursday mornings but right here.”

For more information about the Healing Arts Network, please call Michele Erich, 815.5870, or Maureen Dugan, 343.7973