January 8, 2010

Nashville Symphony brings soothing sounds to VICC

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Nashville Symphony musicians, from left, Deidre Bacco, Anna Lisa Hoepfinger, Dan Reinker and Dawn Hartley play for patients at VICC’s Chemotherapy Infusion Clinic. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Nashville Symphony brings soothing sounds to VICC

The rich sounds of violins and other stringed instruments are now resonating through the halls of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

After months of planning, several members of the Nashville Symphony are volunteering their time to bring orchestral music to cancer patients and their families.

“The Symphony approached Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center because our music is ultimately about serving our communities and those with the most need,” said Mitchell Korn, the symphony's vice president for education and community engagement. “Our musicians are dedicated to providing music in all kinds of settings, and here we are given the privilege to create music and beauty for those who are amidst real struggle.”

Musicians who offer to play at Vanderbilt University Medical Center must go through the same training required for all hospital volunteers.

“We wanted to bring another form of music to our patients, so we set up a special training session to accommodate the complicated schedules of these musicians,” said Kim Hunter, program coordinator of Patient and Family Support Services for Vanderbilt-Ingram.

During the holidays, a quartet from the Nashville Symphony played Christmas carols and other holiday-themed music in the Chemotherapy Infusion Clinic and outside the Cancer Clinic reception lobby. The new volunteers were encouraged by the positive response from patients and families.

“As musicians we don't know where we might be needed, and it's just nice to know that our services are important,” said Dan Reinker, principal viola player with the Symphony.

Some of the musicians have a personal reason for volunteering. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville was named in honor of the late Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony for 22 years. He died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005.

“This place means a lot to us because our former music director was here,” said Deidre Bacco, one of the first violinists. “When I think of Vanderbilt-Ingram, I think of Maestro (Kenneth) Schermerhorn and it is a way to give back to his memory. We have people in the orchestra who had cancer and it is a meaningful thing for us, while we are healthy, to be able to do it.”

Fifteen members of the Nashville Symphony have already been trained as VICC volunteers and small groups of the musicians will be playing in parts of the Cancer Clinic as their schedules allow.