Within a number of articles I’ve written for various publications, the theme has always been along the lines of a new musical product on the market, an amusing road story, or some sort of unique or prestigious event. The triggers for many of my touring escapades have been generally based on a past experience of an individual simply remembering me from a show or music workshop, only to follow up years later with a potential opportunity for a concert or workshop. Then again, I am also reminded that there is simply no way to plan or predict some situations that might present themselves along the journeys afforded to me through my music.
Such is the case here where an individual, Bernardo Burstein, attended one of my GillaCamp Guitar Workshops in northern Florida, years later opened a music store called The Guitar Nook in Miami, then contacted me regarding the possibility of hosting one of these guitar camps. So the next adventure began. Bernardo handed the efforts over to his lovely wife Lynne Sharkey, who in turn followed my suggestion regarding a possible house concert along with a workshop. Suddenly this plan expanded into the idea of a fund raising event for Corey Bergman’s budding program, Ukulele Kids Club Inc. This non-profit group plays a part in lightening the load for children recovering in pediatric hospital wards throughout the country by providing ukuleles and working with the music therapists.
Following a show at Wolfe Guitars in Jupiter, Florida, I was honored and privileged to have this opportunity to accompany Corey and music therapist Mary Brieschke to the Chris Evert Children’s Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale to share a bit of music with the kids in the hopes of putting a brief smile on their faces.A short appearance in the playroom was the first stop and I quickly realized the best thing to do was to remember that this situation was totally ‘not about me.’ I simply sat down, pulled out a guitar, and began to noodle around on the strings. It was not long before a couple of the kids gravitated in my direction and it suddenly hit me that perhaps I should offer the guitar for one of them to try to play.
I placed my 12-string guitar in the lap of a girl and showed her a basic strumming pattern. When she felt comfortable with strumming, I accompanied her by playing along with my bottleneck slide. With that, she produced a smile that beamed through me like the sun. For the thousands of times I’ve either been on stage, radio, TV, or in any musical setting, nothing compares to that moment and I will never forget the feeling that so clearly emanated from that young girl.
Another of the highlights of the day was – not surprisingly – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” since every kid knows the Wizard of Oz. After following the yellow brick road, the staff and parents joined in on a rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” What a treat to see the smiles on the faces in the room.
The fundraiser held that evening at the Moca Café was a huge success for the cause and it was great to see the support of the Miami community. With the work of a few dedicated folks, many kids and their families will have a reason to laugh and smile for a while. So, for all you musicians out there, thank you from me for what you are doing. There is a true healing power in music and it does make more of a difference than some of you may realize. Keep on keepin’ on!
Note: Many thanks to the families of the children included in this article for allowing me to share them with my faithful readers and for the Miami Herald’s article about the Ukulele Kids Club. Richard Gilewitz
A Note from Music Therapist, Mary Brieschke MT-BC
Music therapy is the evidence-based use of music by a board certified music therapist aimed at achieving goals that are not musical in nature. These goals are to initiate positive changes in psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of patients or clients in various settings. In a medical setting, music therapy assists pain management measures, decreases anxiety of hospitalization, provides support during procedures, facilitates coping with diagnosis and treatment, provides sensory stimulation, and promotes calming and relaxation. Music therapists use interventions that involve playing instruments, singing, composing new music, and recreating and discussing patient-preferred songs to progress towards these goals in the most appropriate ways that take into account the patient’s functioning level. In a pediatric setting, music therapists help children feel comfortable by using familiar music and instruments, so the hospital feels more like their normal environment.
For more information about music therapy, visit www.musictherapy.org