When you talk about the effect music has on healing the spirit or bringing a sense of normalcy to life, just ask Audrey Vallance, a professional vocalist asked to organize the Creative Arts Music Program at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.
One of her most memorable experiences as a volunteer performer was when a couple walked into Mills Breast Cancer Institute across the street from the hospital, heard her singing, spontaneously danced a few steps followed by a peck on the cheek from the woman to the man before she headed off to her appointment. “The music we provide brings so much comfort and joy. It is very common to see a visitor at Mills Breast Cancer Institute give a thumbs up or say a thank you,” Vallance said.
She organizes musically inclined volunteers who provide at least 20 inspiring performances of subdued tones each month at the reFresh Eatery, the North Star Café, Will’s Garden and the Mills Breast Cancer Institute atrium. A donation to Carle Health Center for Philanthropy from Dena and Jim Vermette prompted formation of the Creative Arts Music Program. The gift resulted in purchase of a Yamaha Clavinova, a digital piano that is compact in size, but with the sound and performance of a concert grand.
Carle patients for 60 years, the Vermettes are also faithful philanthropic donors spanning four decades. “We are so blessed to have Carle,” Dena Vermette said. A singer all of her life, including solo productions at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Champaign, Dena Vermette believes so strongly in the healing power of song. “Music is medicine,” Vermette said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. It takes you to a better place.”
Volunteer musician Charmian Bulley spent a career understanding the importance of music. The retired Champaign Unit 4 music teacher and church choir director said, "Playing piano for Carle and seeing the reactions of patients and caregivers has been very heartwarming to me."
The digital piano is one choice, but sometimes volunteers bring their own instrument, such as a violin or a flute.
Maria Grosse Perdekamp, MD, is not only a physician at Carle Cancer Institute, but also a violinist who sometimes volunteers to play. “I am very thankful to have found Kirsten Landowne, RN, from the rehabilitation floor and professional violin/cello player as my music partner. Through our music and interaction with the patients we could see how much they enjoyed the program. Music is a good way of improving the patient experience and healing process.”
As the Creative Arts Music Program leader, Vallance also lines up school-age musicians such as a fellowship quartet at the University of Illinois and a violin duet who performs at the NorthStar Café.
Uni High School senior Savindi Devmal said her first performance was with one of her best friends inside the North Star Café.
“Performing for CAMP and Carle has always been a fulfilling experience, and I couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of the program. Along with spreading happiness with the music I play, I also love the people I meet through my performances. There is something powerful about how music brings together people who have never met, making them laugh and love life at that moment,” Devmal said.
If you’d like to be part of the Creative Arts Music Program at Carle, they’re always looking for new volunteer musicians. To learn more, visit carle.org/giving/volunteer or contact Audrey Vallance at firstname.lastname@example.org. It costs nothing to join, and you could become part of a talented team that’s making a difference at Carle through the gift of music.