BETHESDA, Md. (CBSDC) — “Any time I can hear Christmas music, it takes my mind off of my discomfort,” says Donald Ayers.
The D.C. resident, in a hospital gown and a wheelchair, has been sick for five years and is a patient at the National Institutes of Health. He used to play saxophone, but he can’t anymore.
“Because of my ailment, I can’t produce any wind to make a sound,” he says. “So, I just listen.”
Ayers is one of many beneficiaries of the National Symphony Orchestra’s “Sound Health Initiative”, which launched this year.
Sound Health involves musicians making “house calls,” or traveling to perform for audiences that are too sick to attend a performance at a concert hall.
On Tuesday, the seven-story atrium of the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda was filled with a brass quintet playing Christmas music for a full hour. One by one, patients came out to get a closer look and listen.
“The sound travels to every floor to every patient,” NIH Clinical Center director Dr. John Gallin told WNEW’s Kimberly Suiters. “The doors are open and the music just flows into their room.”
He believes the music has a significant emotional impact.
“Any time there is a positive distraction from illness, it’s always beneficial,” Gallin says.
Warren Williams, a spokesman for the National Symphony Orchestra, says he’s glad NSO is able to provide patients with performances.
“This is a gift for the patients, the staff, anyone who loves music but can’t come to us,” he said. “I truly believe in the power of music to heal.”