MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 24, 2013

VAMC patients visited by musicians

Trio brings ‘joy and renewal of music’ to veterans

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Patients at Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center heard mellow “Simple Gifts” on Wednesday morning.

The musical gifts came from a trio of Tulsa Symphony Orchestra’s flute, cello and clarinet players, who visited the medical Center through its Heart Strings outreach. The trio played first at the inpatient rehabilitation unit, then moved to other units and the hospital’s entrance lobby later Wednesday.

The concerts were the first of monthly concerts Tulsa Symphony Orchestra members will play at the hospital through the end of the year and 2014, said Nita McClellan, Medical Center public affairs officer.

The program is made possible through funding by the T.D. Williamson Co., a supplier of pipeline equipment and services.

“The Tulsa Symphony is a new kind of orchestra which goes beyond the concert hall,” Symphony executive director Ron Predl said before the first concert. “We aim to bring the joy and renewal of music to the veterans.”

Korean War veteran Ashton Howell called the concert wonderful.

“I never heard anything like it,” Howell said.

“I especially enjoyed the Scott Joplin number and the Gershwin, ‘Porgy and Bess,’” said Clarence Bell, who served during the Vietnam War. He said the trio was a very talented group and he appreciated their gifts to veterans.

The music offers veterans more than just enjoyment, said symphony board member Erv Janssen, M.D.

“Music has a unique way of healing parts of the brain,” said Janssen, a retired Navy medical officer. “It offers a sense of relaxation and comforts. It stimulates the memories of the past and enables healing to take place.”

The trio played tunes to evoke a variety of memories: A light Mozart divertimento, Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” Gershwin’s “Summertime,” as well as the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts.”

McClellan said the Symphony will send a different ensemble to the hospital each month.

“We’ve talked about different things,” McClellan said. “We talked about the possibility of having a harp player.”

Kathy Watson, a senior buyer for T.D. Williamson, said she’s especially interested in helping veterans because so many in her family are veterans. She said her father served in World War II and she has sons who served “in Iran, Iraq and all over the world.”

The concert also marked the unveiling of a mural T.D. Williamson employees painted for the rehab unit.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.