Using music to heal

January 6, 2009 4:33:55 PM PST
Nashville is certainly well known as the home to many singers and songwriters. Now some of those musicians are bringing their talents to new audiences - people too sick to leave their beds.

"It was one of those things that I love, to sing for other people."

Dylan Altman is a successful singer/songwriter.

He's written a hit single for Tim McGraw.

But his audience today is different.

He'll play for people one at a time.

Dylan is a volunteer for Musicians on Call - a group that began 10 years ago in New York City. A chapter began in Philadelphia a short time after that.

Volunteers provide music at the bedsides of patients.

Dylan says, "There is just some magic when you walk in a room that someone is especially sad or hurt and by the end of the song you are both looking at each other with tears in your eyes."

Research shows music lowers blood pressure, lessens stress, and reduces pain.

Donna Glassford, of Vanderbilt Medical Center, says, "Oftentimes, sounds in hospitals are scary. You hear beeps. They are discordant sounds and I think with musicians, what it does is it brings harmony."

Ryan Hewett is recovering from a motorcycle accident.

Dylan's music was a welcome change for Ryan and his wife Kristena.

Kristena says, "I just had smiles on my face the whole time he was singing."

Ryan says, "It was just relaxing. It helped keep my mind off the pain."

Musicians On Call volunteers undergo a rigorous approval process and receive special training.

The musicians like Dylan travel room-to-room 3 days a week.

There are 100 volunteers in Nashville, covering the full musical range from symphony to country to indie rock.

Although it's a new chapter, Nashville's musicians have already played for 6-thousand patients.

In Philadelphia, the 100 members of Musicians on Call play at 4 area hospitals, including Jefferson University Hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Children's Hospital.

Since 2004, the program has touched the lives of over 15,000 people throughout the Philadelphia region. In addition to live music, the program also provides local hospitals with CD Pharmacies featuring a CD listening library and CD players for patients' use.

A benefit concert for the local chapter of Musicians On Call will be held Wednesday, January 21 at World Cafe Live at 7:30 p.m. It will be held in partnership with WXPN. The concert will feature performances by artists Rachael Yamagata, Andrew Lipke and Matt Duke.

Tickets are just $10 and all ticket proceeds benefit WXPN Musicians On Call. They can be purchased at the door, or in advance online at by clicking here.