By Sarvary Koller ’15
Piano melodies of Chopin, Mozart, and Gershwin drift through the air as Patricia Smith walks into the St. Vincent Heart Center lounge to wait for her husband during his surgery.
She enters the atrium, makes a beeline past the blaring television and concerned families, and takes a seat to listen as Butler University Adjunct Piano Professor Anna Briscoe performs.
“It’s soothing while you have to wait and wait and wait,” Smith said. “This place is noisy, but it covers that up. I think the music maybe keeps people from talking so loud.”
Briscoe plays at the Heart Center as a part of a new partnership between the hospital and the Jordan College of Arts School of Music. Faculty and student musicians will play informal lunchtime concerts at the Heart Center each week to share the power of music for healing and relaxation.
Susan Jacques, hospital chaplain, said the Heart Center agreed to host the concerts to support the spiritual health of families and loved ones waiting nervously in the lounge.
“This is a high-anxiety place,” Jacques said. “Your heart is life or death. Music is a way of feeding people’s souls to help them calm down a bit. It lifts their spirits.”
Briscoe said she enjoyed her first time playing piano at the Heart Center. She has played at retirement centers before, but she said she thinks her music has a different kind of impact here—it helps people relax and remember to just breathe.
“These people aren’t all obviously listening, but they are,” she said. “People go on their way, but if my music just for a moment lifted somebody, that’s wonderful.”
Larry Shapiro, Professor of Violin, said the idea for this partnership developed after Chuck Goehring, his longtime friend from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, proposed that the School of Music send student and faculty musicians to the hospital to heal through music.
Goehring underwent open-heart surgery at the Heart Center about six years ago, and Shapiro said his friend was bent on giving back to the hospital after his incredible care. Shapiro presented the idea to Lisa Brooks, Chair of the School of Music, and Ronald Caltabiano, Dean of the Jordan College of the Arts, several weeks ago, and they supported the idea.
The partnership is new to Butler this fall semester, but the School of Music aims to provide the hospital with a student, a faculty member, or a small chamber ensemble to play music on a weekly basis.
Ben Abel ’16, concertmaster of the Butler Symphony Orchestra, will play violin at the Heart Center sometime this week. Others scheduled to perform this month are guitar student Patrick Wright and former violin student Tricia Frasure.
Briscoe said she is already looking forward to a full season of festive music at the Heart Center.
“I just can’t wait to come back during the holidays,” she said, “for Christmas carols and Nutcracker selections.”