“My name’s Dan, and I’m here to play a little music to lift your spirits.” This is how Dan Bradfield enters every patient room at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center
Bradfield is a volunteer guitarist with Musicians on Call, a nonprofit organization established in 1999 with the goal of sharing the healing power of music with hospital patients. Musicians on Call volunteer musicians visit Rocky Mountain Regional every Tuesday evening to perform bedside concerts for Veteran patients. Rocky Mountain Regional is just one of the health care facilities visited by these troubadours.
On this Feb. 12 visit, Bradfield is joined by India Nolen-Tuleja, a volunteer guide with Musicians on Call. Guides like Nolen-Tuleja help the musicians check in at the hospital and act as escorts to help them navigate around the facility. They also serve as icebreakers by introducing the bedside performance program and asking if the patients would like to hear a song. Tonight, Nolen-Tuleja knocks, pokes her head into doorways and says something like “Hi, I’m here with a musician from Musicians on Call. Would you like him to play a song for you?” Patients are free to say yes or no, depending on how they are feeling.
Nolen-Tuleja said she enjoys seeing the Veterans warm up to the idea of an in-room performance. “Sometimes they may not be in the mood for music, but they are willing to take the chance. And when the music starts they just transform. Their eyes light up and their feet are tapping.”
Bradfield, whose father served in Vietnam as a Marine pilot, said he enjoys giving back to Veterans and their families. He said, “I’m happiest when they’re excited to hear the music, and they’ve got family in the room. I like to play for the families, too.”
Bradfield was in luck on this visit, because Army Veteran Joseph Coats was recovering from surgery in his room, and his mother and father were visiting. Bradfield played a song about the love and support of family, and the song moved Coats nearly to tears.
Coats said, “I was specialized reconnaissance, so we were always, always gone. At that time, I was married; we were married five years. I probably knew my wife maybe seven months total. We were just gone all the time, so the relationships that we had were with the guys that you were always (deployed) with.”
After Bradfield finished playing, Coats said, “This is a good program. I like it. This is the first time I’ve ever had to be in the hospital like this, and this makes it nicer.”
Bradfield has been to Rocky Mountain Regional four times, and he intends to keep coming. “This facility is so nice for the Vets, and I enjoy giving back. It always feels good; it’s very fulfilling.”
Nolen-Tuleja, who has visited with Musicians on Call several times, added, “It’s a beautiful experience.”
If you’d like to learn more about Musicians on Call and their Bedside Performance Program, visit https://www.musiciansoncall.org/.