The Arts Help Us Heal

Story from a Performer

From The Toughest Gig:

“She was beautiful. Even though treatment had robbed her of her hair, it was obvious from her delicate cheekbones, olive skin, and perfect teeth that she had been a very pretty young woman. Her closed eyes were frozen in the grimace of slow, lasting pain. She was also disconnected from oxygen, IV’s, and monitors- literally, her last connections to this world. I wondered what kind of tough decisions her mother had made in the previous days.

Emotionally unready to sing, I decided to play a melody, “Home Sweet Home,” a simple tune from the 1800’s with a fitting title for the final journey. We were forbidden to get close to very ill patients, but I got as close as I could without touching her and began to play slowly, unsure whether she could even hear me. The young lady curled up into a fetal position and began to rock back and forth. She could hear me.

Everything that I had ever thought was important to me faded from existence. For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be a shaman, a priest, a messenger of God, summoning up all the joy, beauty, and humanity that I could manage and bringing it to people who needed it more than anyone else in the world. I was smiling and crying at the same time.

No higher honor could be bestowed on any musician; no tougher gig ever existed. On a beautiful spring morning, I left that room, carrying a lesson in the power of music. Now, even when I’m playing to a crowded bar or a coffeehouse, I try to remember that I have no idea what someone in that room is going through. Perhaps a mother is there, just back from sitting in the hospital with her beautiful, dying daughter.

Music can be great fun for a night out on the town, but it can also be like water for a lost soul, wandering in a desert of heartache. About once a month, I return to the hospital to visit patients and share the gift of music. I’ll never forget the last musical rites of that beautiful young woman and one of the greatest rewards of my career.”

– Jonathan Byrd, DooR to DooR Performer

Thank You, Supporters!

Guy B. Phillips Middle School, Drama Department, Robbie Nadas
Children’s Promise Program of NC Children’s Hospital
The Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.
The Jacob K. and Marian B. Javits Foundation
UNC Hospitals Volunteer Association
The Maola Foundation for Children  
Orange County Arts Commission
Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
North Carolina Arts Council
Ride Again Productions
Carla and Josh Javits
Strowd Roses, Inc.
UNC Health Care
AndiSites Inc.


Before: Feeling down and out
After: Feel fantastic!  They are AWESOME!! THEY ARE SUPER AWESOME!!
Father and Son Artists: Ayr Mountainairs
A brighter mood
Dear Mr. Park, Thank you so much for supporting this program!  Our kids (5nsh-n) have too much free time on the weekends and structured activities like the story teller/drummer are such a special treat.  Typically our patients participate with intense interest, bright smiles and are clearly having fun.  S.H. RN Before: Patients just “hanging out” with nothing to do After:  Patients clearly displayed a brighter mood. Artist: Braima Moiwai, Storyteller, Drummer leads a drumming circle and talks about Sierra Leone, his home country sometime teaching a few words in French and African and showing a map of Africa.
Imaginative, creative program
Dear Joy, As parts of your superb report were read at the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation meeting this morning, we contemplated your devotion to the beautiful “Room Service” (now DooR to DooR) project at Duke Hospital. Each of our trustees was deeply touched and all join in expressing deepest gratitude to you for such an imaginative, creative program.Thank you for inspiring everyone.  May you and your precious family have a glorious holiday.  May God bless you always. Devotedly, Mary D.B.T. Semans & James H. Semans, M.D. 1993