Volunteer Spotlight: The Music of Dreams

Very few musicians would be happy to look out into the audience and see someone falling asleep. For Angela Hospice volunteer Kay Rowe someone falling asleep while she plays her dulcimer means she’s doing her job right.

“I’ve seen a lot of people when I start out that are fidgeting,” Kay said. “Then you start to play for them and they just kind of relax. Sometimes people say they don’t think they can stay awake and I’ll tell them that isn’t required.”

Kay has been playing the dulcimer, which is a string and percussion instrument, for the last ten years. With the hammer she uses the dulcimer sounds almost like a harp, helping comfort patients and their families with its soothing sound. Kay said a lot of dulcimer music is played fast and for dance, but Kay’s isn’t. Hers is played primarily to help relax those she’s playing for. It’s meant to be therapeutic.

Kay plays the dulcimer once a week in the Care Center.
She brings her very unique skills to the Care Center every Thursday, and usually plays for a few hours, going from room to room to see if anyone wants her to play. She can play all kinds of music, but hymns are her specialty.

Her song selection is just as unique as the patient she’s playing for. Each session is adapted according to how they are reacting. Sometimes if a person seems agitated she’ll start with slightly faster music to match their heartrate and then gradually slow it down.

If a patient looks like they are drifting off, she starts playing super soft, something a CD can’t do unless someone is in the room watching the patient with their hand on the knob. Plus, her playing means another person in the room, providing the kind of comfort a CD often can’t.

“Here, I just play, and it’s the music that does the healing,” she said. “I’m just grateful to have a gift that I can give.”

Kay’s gift has been filling the Care Center halls for the last two-and-a-half years, after Kay heard about Angela Hospice from a friend who used to work here. She signed up for the volunteer training and hasn’t looked back. Kay is one of only a handful of volunteers that provide music to patients and their families, and the only one that plays the dulcimer.

“I love hospice,” she said. “It’s so gratifying and rewarding.”

Kay, who is almost done working on her certification in therapeutic music, said the music isn’t just healing for patients and their loved ones, but for her too. Sometimes when she’s playing at church or a big concert, she said she often gets nervous. But in the Care Center she’s never had that issue. It de-stresses her as much as it does the patients. The music, and seeing people’s reaction and appreciation for it, is the best part about playing here for her.

“I always tell people that their smile is my payment,” she said.

(And their snores.)

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