Wyoming Medical Center partners with Wyoming Symphony Orchestra to offer music therapy

By Kristy Bleizeffer Mar 18, 2015

Bunky Walker (on keyboard) and Richard Turner (on recorder) play classical music in our McMurry West Tower lobby on March 9. The performance was the first session in a new partnership between the hospital and the symphony to provide music therapy to patients and visitors.

Bunky Walker (on keyboard) and Richard Turner (on recorder) play classical music in our McMurry West Tower lobby on March 9. The performance was the first session in a new partnership between the hospital and the symphony to provide music therapy to patients and visitors.

The minuet bounced off the tall ceiling and wafted up the grand staircase in the middle of the McMurry West Tower lobby. It echoed through The Market Place at lunchtime.  It greeted patients and visitors walking in the hospital’s front doors, some arriving for stressful medical procedures, others coming to visit a sick loved one.

Richard Turner and Bunky Walker have played such minuets and other classical music pieces to packed houses for a combined 50 years with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra. But March 9 was the first time they’ve played for patients and visitors at Wyoming Medical Center.

“The healing power of music is becoming more and more recognized,” said Turner, the symphony’s principal bassoonist. “We’ve seen this first hand as we’ve played in some of the community’s elder care facilities. People just respond to the music and it taps that little inner thing. Hospitals are the perfect place for live music.”

Turner (playing recorder) and Walker (on keyboards) kicked off a new partnership between the community’s orchestra and its hospital. Symphony musicians will perform inside the hospital quarterly as part of our new music therapy program. For the first session, Turner and Walker started in our new West Tower lobby and then moved on to our surgical and cardiac floors.

'“The healing power of music is becoming more and more recognized,' said Richard Turner (at right) who has played with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra for about 20 years. 'We’ve seen this first hand as we’ve played in some of the community’s elder care facilities. People just respond to the music and it taps that little inner thing. Hospitals are the perfect place for live music.'

'“The healing power of music is becoming more and more recognized,' said Richard Turner (at right) who has played with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra for about 20 years. 'We’ve seen this first hand as we’ve played in some of the community’s elder care facilities. People just respond to the music and it taps that little inner thing. Hospitals are the perfect place for live music.'

Music therapy fits into the hospital’s larger wellness initiative. 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. Dr. Mark Mc Ginley, who is board certified integrated holistic medicine, will develop the curriculum for the center, aimed at improving chronic health measures in targeted populations.  In May, we will host a wellness summit to improve health in Wyoming workplaces.

Numerous studies link music therapy to improved healing, said Alisha Havens, development director of the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation. This partnership with the symphony is part of a larger push to bring alternative therapies to our patients. We have revamped our pet therapy program and are developing an aromatherapy program. We also hope to offer art therapy to long-term patients by partnering with local high schools.

“Hospitals have been charged not just with mending bodies, but with changing their population’s health overall and the wellness of the community. Where better to start with these initiatives than inside the walls of the hospital and then take them out in the community?” Havens said.

The idea started with Dave Branson, a symphony patron 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. The impact on patients was extraordinary, Branson said, particularly in the skilled nursing unit where many patients stay the rest of their lives.

Nurses told Branson that patients started showing up 45 minutes before a performance, and some patients needed fewer medications and had less depression over time. The hospital expanded the program to other units and added art therapy programs as well.

“Intuitively, I think these programs work because all of us connect to visual things – artwork and photography – and everyone is touched by music. I think music, dance and artwork are almost primal and instinctual,” Branson said. “Even people who are horribly sick, I think they just react to art and music. And, typically, the reaction is one of pleasure and one of solace.”

This partnership also fits right in to the symphony’s Music on the Move program aimed at taking its music out to the community, said Makayla Hallford, symphony development director. Musicians have played at schools, nursing homes, The Boys and Girls Club, and other community groups, exposing people who may not be able to attend a concert to symphony music.

Wyoming Medical Center is a logical extension of that program, said Walker, who has played with the symphony and served on its board on and off 30 years: “You can see the effect on their faces. They light up, they smile. The music does make an impact on them. I really believe that.”


Watch: Listen to Richard Turner and Bunky Walker perform a minuet from the Wyoming Medical Center surgical floor.

Get involved in wellness
  • Wellness center: The 7,000-square-foot wellness center will include workout equipment, classroom space and space for aromatherapy, acupuncture and nutritional consults. The Wyoming Medical Center Foundation has committed to raising $1 million for interior construction and equipment. The center, devoted to improving the health of target populations through integrative medicine, meets the Wyoming Medical Center mission of advancing the health and wellness of our community. To support the center or to learn more, call the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation at (307) 577-2973.
  • Wyoming Worksite Wellness Summit 2015: This two-day workshop is designed to help businesses implement worksite health programs and decrease health plan expenditures while increasing employee satisfaction. It is May 28-29 at Casper College. Cost is $150 per participant and includes meals. Click here for more information, or call the foundation at (307) 577-2973.
Support the symphony

Thank you to the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra for donating its time in service to our patients. Show your appreciation for all the symphony brings to this city by attending its next concert this weekend.

  • What: “Viva la France!” featuring music by French composers and welcoming special guest Jolyon Pegis, associate principal cellist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21
  • Where: John F. Welsh Auditorium at Natrona County High School
  • Tickets: $20 to $40, available by calling 307-266-1478 or at the symphony office, 225 South David St, Suite B, in Casper

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