New music program lifting spirits in the Burr wing at KGH

News / Patient Care
By Peter Jeffrey

Professional and volunteer musicians playing over lunch hour for patients and staff

With its big windows and comfortable furniture, the Burr wing lobby at Kingston General Hospital was specially designed to brighten people's days. Now, KGH is busy adding some relaxing live music into the mix.

"Our new lunch-time music series is really lifting people's spirits," says Jill Holland-Reilly, Director of Volunteer Services and Corporate Accessibility. "The minute the music starts, people gather around to be part of the experience."

The live music program began in the fall as a way to support patients and families spending time in the Burr wing, as well as the staff caring for them.

It's now been expanded to include a mix of professional and amateur performers playing many different styles of music, from classical to swing. Each performance begins at noon and runs for about an hour.

A community donation by music enthusiast Ronald Justus helped get the ball rolling on the program. As part of it, he began encouraging local musicians to sign up to play in the hospital. Since then, the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF), the Health Arts Society of Ontario, the Musician Performance Trust Fund and the Kingston Musicians Union have all teamed up to make it possible for a busy slate of professional musicians to be added to the schedule.

Here's how the schedule looks for February. Every Tuesday and Thursday will feature professional acts, such as the Saxobelles, Triola Trio, Quintessentials, Star Painters and Spencer Evans.

KGH staff member Eric Gagnon has volunteered to play the grand piano in the space every Monday. Wednesdays will see a variety of talented amateur musicians from the community performing and Friday will feature former cancer patient and music teacher Cathy Myers on the piano.

"I was a patient here in 2012 and saw the piano when I would come in for my treatments. I thought it would be a nice way to give back to staff who gave so much of themselves to me during my fight with cancer. It's also been very therapeutic for me," she says.

Kinta Amatya, Compass Administrative Assistant, who runs the area's coffee kiosk over the lunch hour, says the music definitely moves people.

"Every time I look across the lobby I see people smiling and nodding along, and sometimes they even get up and start dancing, particularly seniors and children. It's very heartwarming and inspiring," she says.

It's that break from the worries that come with being treated in a hospital that makes the program popular.

"Our aim is to play music that helps put people's minds at ease for a moment during what is probably a very stressful time in their lives," says Gisele Dalbec Szczesniak who plays the violin in the Triola Trio.

If you are a local musician and interested in participating, contact KGH Volunteer Services at 613-549-6666 ext. 2359.