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Volunteer pianists bring new scale of healing to UMC

University Medical Center is developing a music program, in which volunteer pianists play in the waiting area for a few hours a week.

“Most of the people that come here are in pain,” said EMT Alonso Lozano.

Like volunteer Nelson Bank, an English teacher who began playing piano 55 years ago. He limped into the emergency room in March with sepsis in his foot. Six weeks ago he began volunteering an hour a week.

“Music takes your mind off everything except the music,” Bank said. “I want to be a part of that.”

Father-of-four Eddie Hernandez checked in this past weekend. Doctors told him that his 36-year-old heart is functioning at 20 percent.

“It takes everything out of your mind,” Hernandez said. “Everything goes through your mind — the worst.”

Katelyn Smalley, 14, also learned the healing power of music the hard way. After being bullied at school, her brother, Michah, 16, taught her to play piano. She began to experience peace, she said.

“I want to soothe them and make them feel at home and peaceful,” Katelyn Smalley said.

In July the siblings began playing at the hospital two hours a week. Katelyn wants to be a vet — Micah an oncologist.

“It’s kind of bigger than just community service,” Micah Smalley said.

Mom, Carolyn, doesn’t bother hiding her pride.

“Even employees stop by and nod and smile and say, ‘Thank you, thank you for doing this,'” Carolyn Smalley said.

“During my break, I just like to find a place just to relax, and it turns out this piano man just hit the spot,” Lozano said.

The UMC Foundation is hoping to put a second piano in the more high-stress chemotherapy and radiology waiting area, and take the program from three hours a week to 24/7, said Program Manager Carliene Quist.

As the holiday season approaches, the foundation is looking to add to its three-man volunteer rotation. Prospective volunteers, especially choirs, are asked to call the UMC Foundation. They can visit the foundation website via’s links mentioned.

Volunteers can expect to perform a psychological dance with every keystroke, Bank said.

“A balance between serving others and enjoying playing piano,” he said.

“That’s the power of music,” Micah Smalley said. “And so I do believe in it.”

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