Return to Programs

2012 Student Excerpts

Service Canada Student jobs narrative report – 2012

Artists in Healthcare, Mb. supervised 8 students this summer.

Once again, we did not receive a placement for Misericordia Place and once again, their Foundation was able to fund a student for us.

We were turned down in the Brandon Constituency but had enough funding to keep Matthew Zimmerman playing there until the end of August and we are applying for more Brandon Area Community Foundation funding to keep him throughout the 2012-2013 school year.

Steven Onotera played at Deer Lodge for his fourth consecutive year, Tim Seier returned for a second year at St. Boniface and Kris Ulrich for a second year at Health Sciences Centre.

Service Canada students played at the following locations:

Health Sciences Centre – Kristopher Ulrich

Riverview Health Centre- Malcolm Somers

Deer Lodge – Steven Onotera

St. Boniface Hospital – Tim Seier

Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg – Brennan Wall

Donwood Manor and the Kildonan Personal Care Centre – Paige Drobot

Foyer Valade – Cole Moreau

Misericorida Place and Hospital – Jaymie Friesen

Kristopher Ulrich – Health Sciences Centre

So far my return to HSC has been great. The staff remembered me and has shown nothing but positive energy towards my work in the hospital. There is a lot of ground to cover here and many staff I have spoken to would love to see music year round. Every day I have at least one special moment that makes me realize how important music is in this environment. The other day I discovered an elderly lady had a beautiful voice, so we ended up singing songs like, “You Are My Sunshine”, and “Goodnight Irene” in harmony. It was the perfect way to end a days’ work. Being an artist in health care you are able to see a perspective few are able to see when in the hospital, and it is a view I am constantly learning from. I find through this job I am developing a deeper understanding and love for the many different people in this world.

I was playing guitar and nearing the end of my shift when I decided to go play one of my favourite wards. I am always welcomed with smiles and cheers whenever I arrive. I had just sat down and started into a song when a lady passing by stopped to ask me to play for her sister, who was in her last minute/hours, who was a huge music fan.

I was overcome with many emotions and thoughts but said yes immediately and followed the woman to the room. I set up my chair and played for an hour and half for the patient and her family. Upon leaving I received countless thanks from the family and staff. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. It is in these experiences where I see how important music is in this environment.

I recently played on GD-6 for a patient that passed away. The patient’s husband contacted me and asked if I would play her ceremony at a church. I agreed to and played solo guitar at the reception. Many people approached me asking me if I was the musician who played for the patient in her final hours. They were all incredibly grateful and informed me how much the family appreciated it. The husband, after the service said, “you were the last music my baby heard.”

I feel so honoured to be able to share the gift of music. As the summer went on, it seemed to me that consistently, everyday, there was a passerby who stopped to express to me how much they appreciated having music in the hospital. It seemed this became more and more frequent as the summer went on.

Malcolm Somers – Riverview Health Centre

I was playing on the Palliative Care ward, and there was an elderly German man there who I had seen a few times. One day he had a health care aid come and wheel him next to me in the hallway. He didn’t say much, he just sort of sat with me and smiled as I played. Then one day when I went to go play in his hallway, shortly after I started playing, he came out of his room and as if out of thin air he produced a harmonica and started playing this beautiful German folk song. He was incredibly talented (I had never heard someone that talented on harmonica) and he caught me completely by surprise so I found myself just sitting there listening to him. All in all it was a really nice way for someone to show their appreciation.

I was setting up in the hallway on the palliative care ward when a man popped out of the room next to me. He asked if I was the one who’s been playing and I said yes. He went on to say that his grandma had been listening to me the past few days, and that he had been telling her that I was “Uncle Chico”, a family member who played guitar in a band.

He told me that it would probably be her last night, and went on to tell me just how much his grandma, as well as he and his family appreciated it.

Before he left he smiled at me and said “You’re a good person, and its people like you that make me believe there is good in the world”. I’ve met a lot of people, especially on palliative care who have been very appreciative, but this was quite possibly the most kind, beautiful, and genuinely appreciative thing a stranger has ever said to me, and it really made me feel like I had made a difference in this woman’s life before she died, as well as a difference in her families’ lives, and will probably be one of the most memorable parts of my time here.

One day I went up to play and asked at the front desk if they’d like me to play at for anyone in particular. The nurse looked at me and asked if I knew any Bob Dylan, and I said yes.

As it turned out there was a man there who was a huge Dylan fan (he even had posters up in his room). He could not speak. I started to play “Like a Rolling Stone” and he just seemed to light up. It looked like when someone realizes something they forgot, and he seemed more alive all of a sudden.

As I was playing, the nurse left and came back with the rest of the staff, and they all stood and watched his reaction, some of them even tearing up. Afterwards the nurse thanked me and told me after that none of the staff had ever seen him that alert and happy.

Steven Onotera – Deer Lodge Health Centre

At the beginning of my work term I settled in very easily. One of the things that surprise me each time I return is how many people remember me. I would get “Hi Steve!” or “Glad to see you’re back!” from people I don’t ever remember talking to. This creates an extremely friendly environment for me, which makes it an absolute pleasure to go to work every morning.

There is one fellow on the 4th floor who I visit about twice per week. Since the first week I started playing this year, he would ask me to play “The 1 O’clock Jump”, “The 2 O’clock Jump” or “Jumping by the Woodside”. After a couple of weeks I learned “Jumping by the Woodside” for him. Sure enough, he was ecstatic when I played it for him. We chatted for a bit and I asked him what he would like to hear now. He requested the same three songs. Ever since I have been playing him “Jumping by the Woodside” about 6 times per week.

Last week I was playing in a hall for a lady I regularly see. Unbeknownst to me, another woman in one of the rooms beside us was listening. She came out to me after and said “You play lovely music, I was a little sad before but now I feel great!”

In the Prime Centre Day Clinic, there is an Italian fellow who loves to chat about soccer. His wife was getting surgery and they decided it would be better for him if he spent that time in the Deer Lodge Centre instead of being home alone. He seemed a little worried about being away from home for a week but I assured him I would visit him up on the ward. He was extremely grateful for this. When I would visit he would talk about his wife, the food at the hospital and of course soccer. It is times like that that you realize you aren’t just providing entertainment for people; you really feel like a friend and a companion to them.

As much as this job is important to me I really feel it is more important to the clients of Deer Lodge. Having a non-hospital staff show some genuine interest in a person’s well being can really be that bit of light in their day. I have always felt much appreciated doing this job and I am sure whoever takes my spot at Deer Lodge will feel the same way. So as summer comes to an end, my 4th and final year playing guitar at the Deer Lodge Centre does as well. This job has been extremely rewarding and I am sad that it is over. Each year has been better than the last.

Tim Seier – St. Boniface Hospital

I went up to palliative care at St.B as I do every day at 2 o’clock. There I met someone who I later learned worked for L’Arche, a group home for the mentally challenged. After explaining what Artists in Healthcare does and my role with the organization as a student, she left to ask the patient’s mother, both of whom love music, if I could join them in their room; both agreed. I entered, introduced myself, chatted for a minute and began to play. They loved it and I kept playing. I played for over an hour. By the end of my visit both were so thrilled, not only that I was there, but that there was a not for profit dedicated to bring to everyone what it gave to them that day. They told me that was the first day they had moved to palliative care, and that I, through music, completely turned their day around, and they believed they would be able to make it through.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to feel belief and hope in a desperate situation such as this.

I played for this mother and her daughter every day for almost two weeks. I became one thing in the day that they looked forward to the most. They really loved it, it kept their spirits up. Inevitably, the daughter was getting worse and she was not eating very much and then not being able to be woken; except when I was there playing.

The day after we met the mother told me that what I brought with me was a miracle; the daughter had been struggling with eating and wakefulness until I joined them. It seemed that every day that miracle was continued as we all were laughing and having a good time, talking about friends at home and eating, and that very much included the daughter.

It felt almost like nothing was wrong and I almost didn’t believe them when they told me that earlier they were having a hard time waking her and that she wouldn’t eat. Her mother was thrilled when I was there about her daughter’s consciousness. In no time at all, I became the one part of her day that she became fully conscious. I always promised to be back the same time the next day and I never missed.

I soon felt that I became her mother’s hope for that day’s strong conscious connection with her daughter. One day closer to the last I showed up and the mother was exited, welcomed me and announced to her daughter that I had arrived but by this point, it always took a few minutes of me playing to wake her.

I had a feeling it wasn’t a good day. I played, I played longer, and I played longer and louder and there was still no sign. I played with more intent. I’m pretty sure I was praying. I was playing with as much intensity as I ever had because I felt it was my responsibility to facilitate this connection from daughter back to mother. With this intensity, 45 minutes in, there was still no response. I shifted my focus to keeping her mother company. As I was playing softly, chatting with her mother, her daughter’s eyes opened and we all got to visit once again. The next day, connecting with the patient was much easier.

Brennan Wall – Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg

My experience at Middlechurch has been great; it truly gets better each day. The residents are all so happy to have music around each day! Some of the folks I’ve met here I visit every day. Not only does it make their day to have someone drop by to converse and interact with, but it makes my day to see them as well. There are a good handful of residents here that continuously crack me up, this older generation have a totally different sense of humor than what I’m used to, and it’s great! Oh and playing guitar all day is alright too…. (HA!)

The more the summer has passed at Middle Church the more I have grown to love it. I find myself going to the same resident’s rooms each day not only to make their day, but to make mine! Even though I’ve been placed here to entertain all of these great old folks, it seems that they entertain me more than I them.

Singing each day to everyone is great, I get to grow as a singer and guitar player and everyone who lives and works here gets to hear live music they enjoy. However, I find that sometimes I enjoy spending time with the folks without my instrument more than I do with it. We get to have conversations about what is going on in their lives, work on puzzles (love it!) and guess prices on the “price is right”. This has been such a great growing experience both musically and socially for me.

Paige Drobot – Donwood Manor and the Kildonan Personal Care Centre

Working for Artists in Healthcare has been an incredibly meaningful experience. It feels so good to be able to touch peoples’ lives and, make people sing, dance and smile every day. Some of these people rarely speak, but will sing along to their favorites (You are My Sunshine, My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean.) One family told me that they don’t recall their father ever singing, but are thrilled to see him sing with me! The other day a woman let go of her walker and started to dance. A group of nurses worriedly rushed over, but, the woman said: “Leave me alone, I’m doin’ the twist!”

So, with a team of nurses standing in a circle around her, she danced. Everyday at least one elderly person takes my hand in theirs and tells me they love me, and how much it means to them that I play for them. They tell me I’m “the best”, or “so beautiful”, and “you make me so happy” in various accents, usually German.

One woman named Edith has taught me a few of her favorite songs, namely, “There’s a Long, Long Trail a Winding”, which has become KPCC’s 3rd Floor theme song because she sings it with me every day. She knows a ton of lyrics but usually about 5 minutes after we play it she has forgotten the whole thing and wants to do it again. There are two women at KPCC who are best friends. They do everything together and walk around holding hands. They are always so happy to see me and always wave at me when I enter the room.
At Donwood, I jam with a man named Edmund who plays the harmonica. There is also a man there who is deaf and blind but can tell when I am playing the guitar in the room. The first time he did his little air guitar motion with his hands, and had a big smile on his face; the care workers in the room were so shocked! He must be able to feel my music.

This has been the most rewarding summer I think I have ever had. I have had the pleasure of spending it making music and getting to know some amazing elderly people. It is so interesting to hear their stories, and they love to tell them! One woman recalls that her brothers were young musicians and that she always wanted to play the piano but, her mother always told her, “girls sew.” She always tells me how much she appreciates my music and once told me that having me around “really changes this place.”

Another woman was a child in wartime Poland. She was kidnapped at 12 and taken to Germany where she was given to an elderly couple. Her purpose was to take care of the elderly woman, whose legs were heavy and swollen. A few times people tried to take her away and give her to a young family, to care for the children. The old woman would not let her go, she speaks of her fondly, and Stella remained with her until her death. I play for Stella every day, and after I’m done she always thanks me with generous compliments (“you’re an angel”, “best in the world”). She also tells me everyday to be careful while I’m gone and take care of myself because she doesn’t want me to get hurt, she’s worried about me. She makes me promise to be careful; she is so sweet and caring.

There are police officers, teachers, psychologists, farmers, soldiers, and a woman who was in the circus, a waitress, a cross country skier, just to name a few. Almost all of them love music and are so appreciative of the music I offer them. They sing, dance, laugh and play air guitar on their canes! I love being able to play for the residents.

Cole Moreau – Foyer Valade

I was playing guitar and singing some softer music in one of the lounges. A nurse brought in a fellow who could no longer speak but had a clipboard and pen to communicate with people. As I finished a song he waved me over to read something. He asked if I knew any Bob Dylan, so I played “blowing in the wind” for him.

Then he asked me if I was familiar with a successful local musician who happened to be his first cousin. After chatting about music for a couple minutes I continued to play. I noticed one of the residents had fallen asleep in their chair. In regards to this resident, who is quite restless and difficult, the man wrote on his clipboard, “the nurses can’t even get him to fall asleep, your voice put him to sleep right away.”

And then I thought about it and was quite taken back by the complementary nature of this statement, I continued playing and played some more Bob Dylan.

Today I was playing an instrumental arrangement of a Beatles tune and a fellow came up to listen. I finished playing and he asked if he could play a song. I guess he hadn’t played much there before because the staff was pretty shocked, but there he was singing an old French hymn.

He’s a priest and was telling me about when he would take his guitar and do missionary work with the Inuit’s up north and how hard it was to keep his guitar in tune in the cold. He also told me that he didn’t listen to a lot of music just played a lot from sheet music and old French hymns.

So after he sang his song he gave the guitar back to me and I started singing songs I thought he might recognize. And I couldn’t find a song that he knew, from “It’s a long way to Tipperary” to “Aupres du ma blonde” which is a very popular French song. But I tried lots of others until I found one and I should’ve known but as soon as I started playing the melody to “You are my Sunshine” on guitar he started singing. Literally 2 seconds in! He sang the whole song.
I just find it very interesting. I don’t think a person exists who does not know that song. I am curious of how it became so well known.

Jaymie Friesen – Misericordia Place and Hospital

Friday afternoon is one of my favorite times at Misericordia. A group of ladies and I always gather outside on a patio for ice-cream and music. In between my songs we talk about flowers, gardening, the children playing nearby, age, and memories. These ladies are so unbelievably gracious and kind. Elda, a lady with severe dementia sings along to every song as if she is the star of the show. After each song she exclaims how absolutely gorgeous it was…and how I am such a marvelous singer. It doesn’t take long before she lapses into her own reality and requests to go “home” or to her “appointment”. However, when I start a new song her priorities change, and she resumes singing merrily along to my songs.

Spending time with these ladies on Friday afternoon is immensely fulfilling. Watching them smile, sing along, cry, laugh, tell jokes, and reminisce, reminds me that music is a catalyst to so much more than we realize. Music initiates movement, memories, laughter, and stories. It invites conversation back into this circle of ladies whose interactions grow stagnant out of redundancy and inactivity.

It brings me so much joy to be the one to get these ladies talking, laughing, and singing every Friday afternoon. And from all their hugs and kisses I receive afterwards it would appear that our time together brings them joy too. By now I have established many great relationships with the women and men at Misericordia. What a difference it makes to play music with folks that are no longer strangers but friends. It has been hard to watch some of these relationships when a residents’ health deteriorates or one loses their ability to speak. One lady, named Darlene who was at once a chatty, jovial, and interactive lady is now unable to communicate after suffering a stroke. I find it especially beautiful when I go play for her and her weary face lights up and smiles. Although she can’t say much to me, she has a hard time letting go of my hand after I sing and makes it clear that my singing had made her day. It’s as though we now speak through the language of song.

The students continue to grow each year. As you can tell from some of their stories, the experience of playing music for patients and residents can be incredibly challenging and poignant and deeply rewarding.

Many of them enter the summer program with the expected youthful perspective on life but they all leave matured and changed. The experience opens their eyes to life and I am continuously impressed by their growth and ability to connect with people and build caring relationships with those who are very ill and often much older.

Once again, word of mouth brought us fine music students, and we continue to seek funding to build year round student musician in residence programs throughout Manitoba. As in other years, you can see that each student communicates their experiences differently, but working with them over the summer, it was evident that each of them experienced a lot of personal growth and they all loved being able to use their music in this special way.

Thanks again for offering this fine program to Manitoba’s students.


Shirley Grierson

Executive Director, Artists in Healthcare, Mb. 999-0057