An insight into the work of our Resident Musician programme comes from long-time Breathe performer, guitar player Guillermo Rozenthuler.
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…