Sounds of the Season: Casper Civic Chorale lifts patients' spirits with Christmas carols
By Kristy Bleizeffer Dec 11, 2015
Jim Nations thought he'd be leaving the hospital sometime Thursday until he and his doctor decided he needed one more night to make sure he was ready to go home after surgery.
Depending on how you look at it, he didn't leave just in time.
At about 5:30 p.m., as he was settling in for his last hospital evening, Nations heard Christmas carols wafting into his room from the corridors outside. Four singers broke from the chorus a few minutes later and sang to him from the foot of his bed. Nations sang along.
"It's so quiet here usually," he said after they'd finished. "It always helps to hear people sing, and if you get to join in, so much the better."
About 20 singers from the Casper Civic Chorale sang carols at Wyoming Medical Center Thursday night as part of a continuing effort to bring music to our patients and visitors. They started in the Jerry Behrens MD Orthopedic, Spine and General Surgery Center, singing in hallways before serenading several patients in their rooms. They then moved to the front lobby to greet visitors coming from work to see loved ones in the hospital. Their voices filled the Sky Lobby and could be heard around the corner at the Center Elevators.
"It was totally unexpected and very appreciated. It’s good to have people in our community who want to do this," said Mike Rone, a surgical patient treated to the chorale's rendition of "The First Noel." "I think music puts a smile on your face, and that’s a start to healing."
Music therapy fits into the hospital’s larger wellness initiatives. As Casper’s only community hospital, our mission is to “advance the health and wellness of our community,” and that means caring for the whole patient – in mind, in body and in spirit. We designed our McMurry West Tower with wellness in mind, adding a healing garden for patients and visitors, expanding our interfaith chapel and setting aside 7,000 square feet of shell space for a wellness center in the tower’s Sky Lobby.
Numerous studies link music therapy to improved healing. This spring, we partnered with Wyoming Symphony Orchestra as part of a larger push to bring alternative therapies to our patients. We have revamped our pet therapy program and hope to offer art therapy to long-term patients by partnering with local high schools.
"Bringing music into the hospital really makes a difference to our patients," said Caryn Luberto, executive director of the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation. "We’ve had several other musicians come in, thanks to the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra, and we’ve noticed right away that patients tap their feet even when they are lying in bed. They really just love it, and we think it does help them feel better."
The idea started with Dave Branson, a symphony patron, Casper Civics Chorale singer, and a former fine arts coordinator for Washoe County schools in Reno, Nev. There, he helped form a similar partnership between high school musicians and Renown Medical Center. Wyoming Symphony Orchestra is working to bring a similar program to Casper, working with Wyoming Medical Center and several arts groups in town including Casper College, ARTCORE, Natrona County School District and the Casper Civic Chorale.
"We've been working on this program for about a year. I think, especially this time of year, it's very uplifting to have music and singing inside the hospital. We are excited to be partnered with Wyoming Medical Center to offer this program to patients," said Rachel Bailey, executive director of the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra, who has helped spearhead the efforts to bring music to the hospital.
Nations, who early Thursday hadn't expected to spend another night in the hospital, was thankful.
"People have known for forever that singing is a very positive thing. As a musician myself, I like hearing the harmonies and picking out the different parts," said Nations, the surgery patient serenaded in his room. "It’s just fun, particularly this time of year. I’ve done a lot of this kind of thing myself, with different choirs that I’ve been involved with. It’s kinda nice that someone could come and do it for me."
WATCH: The Casper Civic Chorale sings 'The First Noel' for Wyoming Medical Center patient Mike Rone Dec. 10 on our surgical floor.