An insight into the work of our Resident Musician programme comes from long-time Breathe performer, guitar player Guillermo Rozenthuler:
“Every performance is an opportunity to experience first hand and receive direct in-the-moment-feedback from patients, staff and family members about the powerful, beneficial effects of music on their mood, stress levels, communication and wellbeing. There’s always a loving quality to this feedback which is delightful as I put a lot of love into my work myself.
What I observe almost always while performing is an immediate change of atmosphere. Tense bodies of patients or family members slowly opening up, people starting to breathe more deeply; I see smiles and peaceful gestures where there were sad, contracted or stressed faces. There is more eye contact between patients in rooms where before everyone was absorbed in their own stories. Staff are moving more gently and with a different, cheerful attitude, sometimes singing or dancing along to the music. And occasionally, comments, praise, gratitude, curiosity. But many times simply a tangible lightheartedness in the air, a web of silent gentle interactions and recognition. These really palpable changes, they get me every time.
The positive attitude of staff members, who are obviously very busy with their tasks, and are under such intense pressure every day, always seem to be appreciative of my presence and the music that I bring. When there is a chance to talk, they often speak about live music giving respite, the breaking of routine, and an opportunity to slow down and pause. It’s an opportunity to stop going through the motions and connect again with their deep humanity.
As I return again and again to the same service, the connections with staff members and sometimes chronic patients deepen, and it can at times feel like family. An unofficial fellowship, as if I’m somehow part of the team. I often get asked to come around more frequently. It is my hope that the performance programme can grow and make this possible, especially for the benefit of chronic patients, those on dialysis or who receive regular blood transfusions, or patients currently battling with cancer.
Sometimes it’s just a tiny gesture, a foot rocking, or finger tapping under the sheets, or the ways they engage when I say goodbye and prepare to leave the room. When they talk to me, they sometimes mention feeling sunshine, being transported to a different place or time, forgetting about their pain, feeling less lonely…
After some years doing this wonderful work, all I can say is it brings me deep fulfilment and a sense of purpose in life to contribute to the health of patients and staff, but most importantly, to be making the hospital a healthier, more wholesome and joyful environment to work and to receive treatment in.
For me as a musician (and the son of two medical doctors), it’s a huge privilege to be part of such a deeply human experience and to accompany other humans with my skills, with my passion and what I was born to do. I love the humility of being able to nourish, transform, support others through the power of music. And there are many of us with this vocation of service who have a lot to offer and would give all to this work if there were more opportunities to do it.
My vision is that the network of musicians and performers in hospitals grows and that more live music would be provided to more medical environments in London or even across the country. For example, by expanding these programme to every main hospital and local health centres.”