• By Deb Balzer

The nurse at the piano and a story of hope

December 20, 2021

There are times when the hustle and bustle in the Nathan Landow Atrium of the Gonda Building at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, comes to a standstill. An audible hush gives way to a melody of lush chords and notes wafting from the grand piano. Mayo Clinic's own Genaida Benson, a nurse in radiology is using her free time to perform for patients and staff as they await medical appointments or pass through.

Music has a special power. It's a medicine that benefits those who listen, and those who perform. Photojournalist Kevin Sullivan shares these moments he recently captured.


Watch: The nurse at the piano and a story of hope.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (4:32) is in the downloads at the end of this post. The music performed is "O Holy Night" which is in the Public Domain. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

"Music provides hope and healing to the entire body," says Genaida Benson.

The classically trained pianist turned nurse says she is grateful to Mayo Clinic for saving her father's life. Her strong faith, love of family and hope helped along the way.

It was eight years ago that Genaida Benson traveled to Mayo Clinic with her father, Verlyn Benson, for treatment of stage 4 liver cancer. Genaida Benson says Mayo Clinic was the only hospital that gave her father hope.

It was seeing her father fighting for his life and the expert care he was given that convinced Genaida Benson to study nursing and apply to Mayo Clinic. Today she is affectionately known as the "piano nurse."

From having less than a 1% chance of survival, Verlyn Benson is now cancer-free. In an unexpected role reversal, the proud father recently spent nearly four months in Rochester caring for his daughter. When Genaida Benson broke her leg, Verlyn Benson traveled from California to push his daughter in her wheelchair to appointments and to the piano she so loves to play for those who love to stop and listen.

"It’s a chance to give back to God, but also a chance to give back to Mayo, as well as to help them along on their journey, give them hope, give them encouragement," says Genaida Benson. "We praise God for the gift of life every day. I tell patients when I’m talking to them that every day is a gift and never give up.”

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For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.