Musicians and artists ease the cancer journey
When Anthony Hyatt plays the violin in the lobby of Inova’s Schar Cancer Center in Fairfax, soothing sounds help make something as stressful as radiation therapy or chemotherapy a little easier. Hyatt is a founding Artist-in-Residence of the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute.
Hyatt is part of an Inova program called the “Arts and Healing Program,” one facet of a larger Inova effort called Inova Life With Cancer. Musicians, visual artists and poets perform in the halls of several Inova centers to offer this type of treatment to their patients.
Life with Cancer’s goal is to improve the quality of life for people affected by cancer by providing evidence-based education, support, wellness programs and integrative therapies, according to information from Inova. . This program at Inova began in 1988 when Nando Di Filippo’s wife died of cancer. So he sought out resources to help him and his children understand and cope with their emotions and their changed lives. From her donation, Inova launched the program and spread the word to artists and musicians.
Inova representatives worked with other hospitals that have similar programs and spoke to arts foundations, such as the South Center Partner for the Arts, to connect with artists.
“When designing the program, we traveled to see how arts from other hospitals were used,” said Jennifer Bires, executive director of Life with Cancer and Patient Experience.
As part of Inova’s program, 17 musicians, storytellers, poets and visual artists participate in Inova’s cancer centers.
Hyatt has been playing the violin since she was eight years old. He began working as a teaching artist working independently and with the Maryland-based organization Arts for the Aging and continued with the artist-in-residence programs at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.
“I was thrilled to be invited to be a founding artist-in-residence of the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute,” said Hyatt.
In the hospital lobby, the music might come from their PA system, but the value of a live musician versus a recorded musician has many advantages. “I’m able to react to what’s happening and constantly adapt,” Hyatt said. “I continually change my selections, timbre, volume and tempo in an effort to provide healing experiences for our patients, caregivers and staff members.” He said it requires heightened awareness and multitasking, constantly monitoring the environment and the people in it. “I’m very happy when my music is able to provide a calming experience for people who are under stress while facing difficult circumstances. When I’m working, I’m always looking for opportunities to achieve that outcome,” he said.
Hyatt is currently working on a book about its Arts in Healthcare experiences.