There was a little bit more bustling than usual at the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion Café in the University of New Mexico Hospital Wednesday afternoon, as the band, Goddess of Arno, prepared to play for an hour as a part of a concert series put together by the Arts-in-Medicine program.
Program Director Dr. Patricia Ann Repar started the series “as a way for people in the University community to have an outlet,” said Melissa Sandoval, program coordinator for Arts-in-Medicine. “She ran into a lot of physicians and professors who (would) say, ‘Oh, I used to play guitar,’ or ‘On the side, I dabbled in this band.’ She really wanted an outlet for them to be able to show the other side of themselves, not necessarily the academic side.”
The musicians and artists who play are not just professors and physicians — people from different walks of life participate, Sandoval said.
Arts-in-Medicine is all about helping patients, their families and healthcare workers. The group uses art — or rather, what they call “creative encounters” — to do so, Sandoval said. Arts-in-Medicine members go around the hospital to bring creative encounters to people.
“We use the term ‘creative encounters’ because sometimes our artists might be going around and offering people art, and if they’re anything like me, who can’t really draw a stick figure, I might say, ‘No thank you,’” Sandoval said. “But what we call artists-in-medicine, they learn to kind of feel out the patient or family member for what they might need, so a creative encounter might actually include conversation.”
The concert series is not an event with paid artists roaming around the hospital. Rather, the concert series is made up of volunteer musicians and bands, and they all perform in the BBRP Cafe, Sandoval said.
Sandoval added that these concerts can expose the audience to other kinds of cultural music that they might not know. Goddess of Arno, for example, plays music from the Balkan region in southeastern Europe.
“Many of us have traveled to some of these countries, and we’ve had friendships with people in different Balkan countries,” said Beth Cohen, the band’s violinist. “And of course, we have our own Greek community here. We love to go to their events and dance...We’ve made all these connections cross-culturally and didn’t want to give them up, and we love playing the music so much, so that’s why we’re still here doing it.”
Goddess of Arno also includes percussionists Mary Masuk and Leanne Mennin, bassist Barbara Friedman and guitarist Randy Edmunds. During the concert, the group played many Greek songs.
The audience mulled about as they played, some bobbing their heads and feet to the music, some deep in conversation with those around them, many eating their lunch.
Muni Kulasinghe, the concert manager for Arts-in-Medicine, darted about the cafe, ensuring everything ran smoothly.
“All of our artists in medicine...are just local folks that seem to have found the program, believe in what we do and want to, in a sense, give back to their community,” Sandoval said. “They are all highly skilled. For instance, Muni (Kulasinghe), who is our concert manager, is a very well-trained violinist.”
Muni Kulasinghe & Friends will be performing instrumental jazz and improvisation next week, according to the program calendar.
“There are all kinds of arts that bring healing, and I know that music is important to a lot of people when they’re healing in the hospital and when they’re at home,” Cohen said. “I know that when I’m sick, I want to hear my favorite music if I’m feeling up to it. It makes me feel better, whether I can play or not.”
“It’s really more about passion,” Sandoval said. “One of the things that we like to say is that (with) the people in Arts-in-Medicine that work for our program, egos are left at the door, especially when working in a healthcare environment. We have a concert series, people may clap, people may not, but it’s more about giving (to) the patients. You’ll see healthcare workers come in here — and (the concert) gives them a moment of respite to relax for just a minute and brings a little bit of beauty into what’s usually a scary environment.”
The full concert series schedule can be found at artsinmedicine.unm.edu.
Ariel Lutnesky is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @ariellutnesky.