• Soothing patients with the sound of music

James Jenkins, concert tubist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
James Jenkins, concert tubist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Most would not consider the tuba to be especially calming or gentle. But James Jenkins, a concert tubist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, proves that not only do people enjoy his music, but patients at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus actually request it.

As part of its commitment to holistic healing, Mayo Clinic offers patients and the community, art and music entertainment through Humanities in Medicine. The program partners with local entertainers and artists to bring performances to the campus and musicians like Jenkins to the bedsides of hospitalized patients.

Jenkins said he first discovered the therapeutic effects of music when he played at his father’s bedside during the last year of his life. Soon nurses asked him to play for others in the facility. After his father died, Jenkins began working with health-care leaders to tailor a program to the Jacksonville community, and in September 2000, Body & Soul was born.

Body & Soul consists of 200 artists, most of them professional musicians hand-selected by Jenkins. “The musicians make a living through the arts,” Jenkins says, “and they seek ways to give back to the community.”

The program focuses on the therapeutic value of music. “I don’t know how to put into words what you feel,” says Nell Robinson, director of Medical Education and the Humanities in Medicine program at Mayo’s Florida campus. “It is the art of healing. Mayo Clinic understands that there is more to a healing process than medical procedures.”

Jenkins recalls one of the program’s first bedside performances. “I was concerned the violinist was taking too long in one of the rooms,” Jenkins says. “When I went to check on the situation, everyone in the room had tears.” The patient the performance was intended for had been mute for seven years. “He told the musician ‘thank you’ and would not stop chatting!”

Jenkins said he knew – at that moment – that Body & Soul would be valuable. “People have come out of comas after we perform for them,” he says. Indeed, many medical studies over the past decade have documented the therapeutic effects of music and its ability to soothe patients and impact healing.

Mayo Clinic’s Center for Humanities in Medicine integrates the arts, history and ethics in the medical environment at all three Mayo campuses. For a list of upcoming programs, click here.

Catherine Benson is a communications consultant in the Department of Public Affairs, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

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