Yesterday we had the great privilege of playing for some of the kids at Shriner’s Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital here in Houston, TX. It was a part of a new program called TONIC (Taking Our Noise Into Children’s Hospitals) that was started by a great organization called Love Street Light Circus. Basically once a month musicians will perform for the children over at both hospitals. When we heard about it we hurriedly signed up. Unfortunately Natalie was sick and not able to perform which was crushing to her because this is really close to her heart.
I’ll admit I was nervous. Like crazy nervous. I couldn’t sleep. At all. It was because I didn’t want to let the children down. Yes I knew they’d likely be appreciative no matter what, but I really wanted it to be something they’d really enjoy. We tried to not pick songs dealing with death, mortality, or even a promise of things getting better. TOUGH ASSIGNMENT! That automatically struck half of our originals. I thought we’d throw in some Beatles covers cuz those should work right? WRONG! It’s remarkable how many songs fall under those simple restrictions. Give it a try! Now yes there are a lot of songs that might have been ok. But I had the mentality that if I made just one child feel even the slightest bit bad about his or her situation, I couldn’t live with myself. There’s no way I’d risk that on a maybe. So Kevin and I dug in and went through the entire Beatles catalogue searching for qualifying tunes.
We had 3 different 45 minute sets to play in a row. The first at Shriner’s and the last 2 at Texas Children’s Hospital. The first show was in this balcony type commons area at Shriner’s. We got all set up and I realized that I forgot my guitar pics!!!! I was horrified. What a rookie move! So Kevin folds up a dollar bill and I try that for a while. It worked ok but it was just too soft. I had a dime in my pocket and tried that for a while but it was too awkward. Later I tried folding up one of our business cards and that worked pretty good! Then Jon, our guide from LSLC, lent me his Office Depot discount card. It worked brilliantly!
The space at Shriner’s was a huge open space which can be seen (and heard) from the balconies of quite a few floors. We had about a dozen people stream in to the balcony by the end of the set. One very cute little girl who must have been about 2 was clapping and dancing along. She had some portions of her head shaved and I think had leg braces. Apparently she had to learn to walk again and was thrilled to finally be mobile so she was just dancing around having a great time. It was adorable, and inspiring.
By the third set my voice was beginning to get strained and my fingers quite sore. It was in the Renal Unit on the 8th floor at TX Children’s. We set up right in the middle of the room against the walls where sectioned areas where patients would hook up to a machine that would act as a kidney and filter their blood. Like the first set, not many were there at first but by the end of the set the room was full. I knew I was tired and my energy was running low (and was getting sick of playing the same songs for the third time) so I made the decision to just let lose and put my all into it and give the best show I could muster. We threw out some songs and I threw in a few new cover songs on the fly. The patients were all smiles and the staff where really great. We even had an encore request! However halfway through the set the Office Depot card that I had been using for a guitar pic snapped in half!
The most memorable thing for me was in that last set. There was a pretty girl, probably 8 or so, sitting directly in front of me. At one point a doctor came up to her station and drew the curtain around it for privacy. I’m assuming to hook her up to the machine. After he was done he pulled the curtain back and she was sitting in her chair wearing a white robe and looking rather sullen. Well on our last song I looked up and could see her feet dancing around a bit to the music. Then her head started bobbing. Then she began mouthing the words to the song. That one moment, frozen forever in my mind, made the entire day worth it for me. I will never forget it. Witnessing the power of music. It was my honor to bring the music to those kids. And I’d do it a thousand times again just to see that girl dance. For about 5 minutes she was far away from that hospital and dancing on the stage. I wouldn’t trade those 5 minutes for anything.
For a play by play of the day, check out my Twitter updates:
Here’s a great article further detailing what TONIC is doing:
More on Love Street Light Circus: