Healing with music

Guest author Simon Reich shares an inspiring personal testimony to the power of music.

With war in Syria, daily muggings, deadlock in the Middle East, domestic violence and escalating racial tensions, we are in desperate need of some good news stories.

Being a creative musician, you may not realize it, but you hold the key to giving the world some peace and inspiration.

To explain what this means, I need to take you back a few years to a time when this truth became desperately apparent to me, a time when it changed from merely a concept into a reality.

Some years ago I contracted pneumococcal meningitis, an infection of the brain to put it simply, and was airlifted to an infectious diseases hospital. One in three people die from this infection, so for a few days – in an induced coma – it was touch and go. In fact, the doctors told my wife to gather all my relatives to say goodbye.

I was completely oblivious to all of this and woke, eventually, with my only thought being that my bed clothes were much too tight, as I couldn’t move my left leg. It was only then that I realized, there was no movement on my left side at all, and total numbness on the right side of my face. I was devastated by the thought I might never walk again and no doctor could give me a straight answer about my prognosis.

Two days into my stay in the infectious diseases ward, I heard what sounded like children playing on a piano. Upon asking the staff, I discovered that a full size grand piano had been donated to the hospital and put into a large open ‘lounge room’. Naturally, at the first chance I got, I asked a staff member to push my wheelchair around to the piano so I could re-establish some semblance of my old life, or at least one aspect of it.

If I thought it was simply a matter of sitting at the keyboard and playing all my favourites just like old times, I was gravely mistaken. Many parts of my brain had been damaged and not only would I have to re-learn to walk but also to access the memories I had of musical pieces.

My doctors couldn’t give me any signs of hope, but I found a new way to access hope: through music.

Each night after I ate I would play for about an hour, and unbeknownst to me the whole ward was listening. One night, as I shuffled my way to the lounge room on my crutches, I was welcomed by a small crowd of people, one of whom asked me if I was the person who did concerts each night. I said I was, and then I played. As it turned out, these patients thought I was a musical therapist paid by the hospital to aid in their healing.

This continued for the whole month that I was in the hospital and included times when relatives of terminally ill patients would bring their mothers or their fathers to let the music softly wash over them.

One family explained that it was so depressing, standing around their dying father’s bed in silence, not knowing what to say. He had heard some of the blues tunes I was playing each night and asked where they were coming from. His family told me later that before he died, he confessed to really enjoying the blues piano and – still believing that I was employed by the hospital – thanked the staff for the musical therapist.

As musicians we have a gift that can not only help ourselves to heal, but also bring solace and joy to those around us.

With the advent of cheap home recording and the internet, we can now touch souls all over the planet. The world is so full of bad news stories; let’s take back the right to hear some good news!

Record, post online, perform and enjoy your music, let’s start to heal this planet one listen at a time!

2 thoughts on “Healing with music”

  1. Beautiful story, Simon. Through difficult times we need music even more. That hospital stay must have been a strange experience, getting back to normal life from such a dramatic condition. There should be more public pianos around:)

    Liked by 1 person

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