Archive for the ‘On the Job’ Category

What is that called?

I never know how to answer this question. The first thing that comes to mind is what song I’m playing, but most of the time, the person says “No the instrument.” Of course, the few times I first reply “It’s a harp,” they roll their eyes as if I were insulting their intelligence. ‘Of course it’s a harp.’ But goodness! 9 times out of 10 they really are asking what instrument it is! Granted, most people haven’t seen one so small, so they aren’t sure if maybe it has a different name, like the violin vs. the cello or some such.

And a little anecdote from last week:

I had this shocking experience with a woman in a nursing home. She was sitting in a hallway staring out the window. I came up beside her to play for her and she looked at me as if she were frightened. She grabbed my arm, and when she felt that I was really there she opened her mouth and started crying. She cried the whole time I played for her, but it took her some time to let go. She never said anything, but I’ve heard of some people honestly believing we’re angels, which would be understandably frightening to someone still living. Sometimes people jokingly say “Oh look, an angel,” and I laugh a little, but sometimes I get a little nervous because I know there really are some who believe.

Big happenings

Well so far I have not done so well with my New Year’s resolution, but, if at first you don’t succeed, try try try again. Or some such. I don’t believe very many people currently read this anyway, so hopefully by the time I do get any regulars, there will be enough posts to keep them occupied for a time.

I have been getting busier and busier with the NJ hospice. They send me every which way in NJ. It seems their largest populations are 45 minutes to an hour away! As much as I drive, though, the time really flies. It gives me a chance to catch up on some great music on XPN.

My online ethics course for BSH started a couple weeks ago. So far we’ve gotten to know each other and read a couple chapters. I’d say it’s going well so far, but nothing overly-enticing just yet. It’s tough for me to engage because I’ve never been much for writing (as you may well see), so after having done my assignments, I don’t usually have much to say to my classmates. They’re all very supportive and say things like “Oh what a wonderful response,” but that’s just not my style. I feel like my posts should be substantive, or non-existent. For those who don’t know me, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal.

Also in educational news, I’ve started taking lessons again. I was correct that I need to brush up on technical skills. My fingers got so confused at my first lesson when I had to pre-place them and use the fourth finger in my right hand. When I do therapy, neither of those techniques get much use. Already after my first official practice session, I feel a little better and more like a harp player. That is not to say that anyone who doesn’t worry about form isn’t one, it’s just that it personally gives me that extra sense of purpose. Or purposefulness, rather. I feel like I can give more of myself and my music to the patients by paying more attention. For me, the music comes pretty easily, and I’ve noticed myself slipping in focus even though pretty notes are still coming from my fingers.

Last but most certainly not least, I finally experienced my first death from the bedside yesterday. It is odd that I’ve been playing for people very near death for some time now, but had not yet been there at the final moment. It was most assuredly a sad time – the patient had many family members present, one of whom was wailing loudly the whole time (and I most definitely don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, I’m just not sure how to write crying/yelling politely). I was blocked from view most of the time, and I wasn’t sure when she passed. For all I know, she may have been gone by the time I got there. She didn’t look any different. I didn’t expect her to, of course, and yet – well some people speak of signs and such. I think there was just too much going on around her. For sure I had to spend a few minutes in the hallway to collect myself. One nurse was actually very kind and asked if I was alright. Sadly, the patient across from her passed while I was playing for someone else, and I hadn’t had a chance to play for him. I’m hoping he got some of my music from the hallway.

Song I learned today: “Santa Lucia” = traditional Neapolitan song. Recorded by Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, and Elvis (among many others). Hear it on YouTube. Learned at the request of a patient at Cardinal Village in NJ.

What to do?

Today I had one of those moments you hear about, but don’t really know what to do when it actually happens. I played for a woman who is apparently very close to passing. She had her eyes closed the entire time, though she did raise her head a open her mouth a few times. After about a half hour, I stopped and said farewell. I packed up to leave, and as I was walking out the door, she called out to me. She said “Hey!” I turned around, a bit baffled, and walked back over to her. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point. I asked if she needed anything – I think, or maybe I was just thinking of doing so. She had her eyes open now and was looking at me. I couldn’t read her expression, though her eyes were telling me something. I would like to think it was gratitude, but one of the first things we harp therapists learn is not to make assumptions, even if it is very likely. It seemed she may have wanted to say something else, but she couldn’t really speak. Maybe she didn’t have the energy. But she looked at me. I looked back at her.

I can’t help wondering if maybe I should have done or said something more. It seemed a bit presumptuous to say “You’re welcome.” So after looking at each other for I don’t know how long, I said “Ok I’m going now. Take care.” It seemed so hollow. I can only hope that she really was grateful and saying “Hey!” was her way of thanking me and sharing that eye contact was enough for her.

A Definitive Day

Today I had one of those harp therapy Wow moments. I played for a woman whose eyes could not focus and rolled up and whose jaw worked constantly opening and closing her mouth without end. I started slowly playing “Jesus Loves Me” and wonder of wonders, her jaw calmed down and she was holding her mouth shut. That sense of relaxation alone was pretty powerful. Then, she even started singing along. I felt this wave of – I don’t know what. Some emotion, excitement, joy, something. Tears definitely came to my eyes. She had obvious difficulty with it, but to know that she was still present and making such an effort was just so intense. We went through it a few times. Afterwards, the man who escorts me around the floor told me he’d never heard her speak in the three years he’s been there.

Every harp therapist has her or his stories, but to experience it, well I can’t even describe it. It’s a blessing. That’s for sure.

The Pied Harper

I dubbed myself that yesterday after my first stint with some NJ hospice patients. As I walked through the halls, I gathered quite the fan club. At times I was worried about blocking the hallways with my fans and their walkers. Nothing went awry, thankfully. It was quite a delightful day.

Today went rather well as well. Just long. I got called to go to Atlantic City to play at CCH’s booth at a convention. It was nice to sit there and play my harp for passersby- almost like being a busker, just without the tip jar. It also was nice because more people from CCH who can potentially find me work heard me, so they have more of an idea and more motivation to recommend me to their facilities and patients. As of right now I have a set biweekly 2-hour shift at one facility for CCH. The various marketing people were making jokes about fighting over my schedule. Let’s hope it doesn’t really come to that! Or that it does?

Yet another reason why I love my job

So here I am with a regular job now. The hospice in NJ already has me going out.

I went out with one of the community liaisons to a few of their facilities the other day. One was a Medicaid facility where most of the residents are not so well off. When I played, the staff was as enthralled if not moreso than the residents. Unbeknownst to me, as I played for some residents in the lunch room, the activities director went to the owner of the home and got permission to pay me. When she asked how much I charged, my colleague from the hospice said “Oh no no no! This is from the hospice.” The woman near burst into tears. She was so incredibly grateful because she saw what it did for the residents there, and to think that it was a gift was, well, a really big gift!

I know I’ve said it probably every post before, but I really can’t imagine doing any other line of work. I’m not sure there’s anything more rewarding than providing happiness and/or relief, which we (harp therapists) do pretty much constantly!

And yes, now I feel I can officially say that I am a harp therapist as a vocation *and career. :)

Two long days

And it’s only going to get longer. And better! I’ve been hired by a hospice in New Jersey where I’ll be covering three counties. Yesterday was orientation, and today I met some of the staff. Everyone seems really excited and is already thinking about who I should play for. I’m really looking forward to working with and for these people. They’re a really great group.

Afterwards, I went to Abington Memorial and played for an hour. It was my first hour towards getting my mastery level certification from BSH. It went well. I even got a request from a nurse to play for a specific patient, which according to the BSH message boards, happens rather frequently, but it was my first. The lady and her two family members really enjoyed it. I know she wasn’t in a good way because her daughter (I’m guessing) was clearly upset and crying, but the patient was watching and listening and humming along with a smile on her face. Seeing that sign of comfort on people’s faces is one of the best parts of the job.

My next project, besides writing a reading journal, which I haven’t started yet because I got sidetracked in my reading, is remembering to pack myself a lunch for these long days, which I have the feeling will happen more frequently.

A week of work

It was only two days and four hours, but for someone who hadn’t had much work yet, it’s quite the work load! Both days were so lovely. Monday I was out in a nursing home in Royersford playing different patient floors. It was so lovely to see all the smiles and have people singing along. Same as today. As for a couple stories: in Royersford, there was one particular patient that had a tremor in her hands that visibly calmed down and even stopped for a moment while I played for her. Today there was one that the staff said does nothing but stare at the television when people are around, but she looked at me while I played “You Are My Sunshine” and smiled at the end. Every minute I spend doing this work reinforces the fact that I know this is what I am supposed to do with my life.

I also learned the value of the Surcingle – the belt used to support the harp. For the three hours I did on Monday, I did not use it because I had just gotten it and hadn’t even tried it out yet, and I didn’t want to be fiddling with it. The next day my shoulder hurt like it never had before. Granted, I’m sure there were other things going on there because in the days of my internship I played even longer days and didn’t have these problems. Still. I used it today and felt the huge difference. Of course, I need to adjust it and such because it was putting a bit too much pressure on my lower back. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t wear it on Monday, actually. I may have hurt my shoulder, but it’s mostly better now. I think it might have been worse on my lower back. I’ll figure it out.

When this becomes a regular situation – working, that is – I am happy to say I will be one of those lucky few who really really love their careers and are happy to go to work. So far, so good.


Getting up to date

Now I have a photo to start my gallery! I know I haven’t been keeping this up as well as I’ve meant to and as much as I should. So far, I did indeed start working with Personal Touch. So far, I’ve played in three nursing homes in public areas, and one nursing home doing patient rounds. Smiles and thanks abound, really reminding me why it is I do what I do. I love bringing people joy and comfort.

At the last nursing home, I played in the cafeteria during their lunch hour. The residents seemed excited to hear me, and some even made requests. One man seemed to enjoy naming what I was playing and was rather partial to “medieval” tunes. Another requested Danny Boy, which I played, though for a moment another man at the same table got rather upset. He let out a big sob. I considered stopping, but amazingly, he didn’t seem to stay upset. Rather, at the end he smiled and said that it was lovely!

Starting tomorrow I will continue my search for more work. Also, I will attempt to be better about updating about the job search/jobs. I got rather complacent in the idea that I had a job, but I can easily do more and would love to. I am indeed officially a professional harp therapist, which is very exciting. Now I need to bring it up to the level of a career.

Peace and Love.

The Value of Patience

Since being hired at the hospice last month, I’ve had to wait to start actually playing for patients. There was, of course, paperwork to be filled out, and medical tests to be done (the test for TB that all medical facilities require of their workers). Now, I’m still waiting to get a list.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting more practicing done, which is lovely, and I even had a gig for a Memorial Day Veteran’s appreciation ceremony at a local nursing home. The woman who asked me to do the job got my letter from this nursing home, who had gotten it from my mother’s friend. What a wonderful example of the power of networking. :) Even nicer is the fact that there are potential future jobs from this one. So, slowly but surely, things are coming together and I’m becoming a working professional harp therapist. There really is nothing in the world like doing what you love for a living.