Sharon Bench was lying in bed in the cardiac wing at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center when the sweet sounds of trombones echoed through the halls.
At first, Bench, a former teacher and musician, thought it was one person serenading a patient.
“I kept hearing more instruments, so I definitely clambered out of that bed as fast as I could,” Bench said.
What she found was a handful of Timberview High School band students performing as part of Recovery Notes, a music therapy partnership between the hospital and Mansfield high schools. Each Monday, band, choir or theater students stop by to perform on the cardiac care floor.
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“They were wonderful. It’s something to get you out of bed, and in a place like this you need something to get you out of bed,” Bench said. “Just to hear music and to see the kids out here doing it is great.”
Recovery Notes started in January as an offshoot of the hospital’s therapy dog program featuring the beloved duo of Mansfield resident Steve Burn and his chow mix Max.
“We were brainstorming things that we could do to enhance the patient experience and make their stay more enjoyable,” said Laura Sweatt, the hospital's program director for Magnet, a prestigious designation for nursing excellence. “There’s a lot of evidence and research out there about the effects of music on the brain, triggering a happy response and helping patients cope with stress. We really thought music would be a good next venture.”
The school district quickly stepped in, filling every Monday slot during the school year and working to continue the program in the summer.
The music brings joy to patients and their families and offers a much-needed distraction from the stress of a hospital stay, Sweatt said. In one case, a family who was gathered around a loved one's deathbed heard a choir student singing.
“They came out of the room hearing her sing,” said Brittany Ross, an art teacher at Tarver-Rendon Elementary School and an intern at the district’s fine arts department.
She recalled the family telling the student: “This is her dying wish. Can you sing for her right now in her room?"
The student "went in there and sang this gorgeous song and her voice is so mature and beautiful," Ross said. "Everybody was crying. We were all just in tears. This lady loved every second of this song that she sang.”
Ross, who is pursuing a master’s degree in administration with the goal of becoming a fine arts director, said the emotion of that day has stuck with her.
“This is unreal. It was so beautiful and magical,” Ross said. “The students are so great. They’ll get up in front of anyone and put emotion and love into what they’re doing.”
Timberview senior Danielle Jaundoo played her oboe for patients and said: “It was way cooler than I thought it would be to actually get to see the people reacting to the music."
Another senior, trombonist Noah Hayes, said he was glad to hear his performance had given Bench an emotional lift.
“It’s great to play for sick people and bring joy to their day,” Hayes said. “Seeing everyone like our performance and hearing someone say that we made their day was a really special thing.”
Linda Graham and her brother Gary Duncan were visiting their 93-year-old mother at the hospital when they heard the music.
“My husband’s a band director, so I perked up when I heard that," Graham said. "I think it's wonderful" that the students perform at the hospital.
Music, she said, “meets everybody."
"Regardless of race, where you came from, age, gender. It’s the universal language and it brings great comfort to patients here,” Graham said.