The story of PROJECT: MUSIC HEALS US, Inc. all comes down to a shard of glass. It was December 5th, 2013, the night before a chamber music concert tour across Israel, and I had decided it was time to attack an ominous stack of dirty dishes that had been collecting in the sink for a few too many days. It was upon completion of this daunting task that, to my horror, a neatly-stacked (and sparklingly clean, I might add!) glass bowl decided to hop off the drying rack and shatter itself into a million little pieces into... my hand.
The ensuing months were a string of somewhat discouraging doctor's appointments and painful probings – attempts to remove the glass shards from my left-hand middle finger. During this three month long and viola-less process, I moved out to Guilford, Connecticut, to live with my grandparents for a while. I also decided to sign up for a nursing aide course with the American Red Cross in New Haven, Connecticut.
Part of this course included a week-long residency in the Arden House Nursing Center in Hamden, Connecticut, in which all of the students were given the opportunity to work one-on-one with a number of patients. During this time, there was one very special patient with whom I just plain fell in love: her name is Ruth. When it was my turn to work with her for the first time, I was given a preparatory warning of, "She doesn't respond. She can't speak. She's difficult to work with. She can't understand you. She's stubborn…” But, to my amazement, when I entered her room and sat with her for a few minutes to hold her hand, she looked right at me and asked, "Where are you from? Do you have a boyfriend?" and other such questions. That night I was on cloud nine as I shared the story with my grandparents back in Guilford! I could hardly wait to visit her again. The next day, as I sat with her again, I was overjoyed to hear her speak in short, but complete sentences. On the last day of the residency, as the students each said our teary goodbyes to the patients, I made sure to save a few extra minutes for Ruth. It was here that the idea of Project: Music Heals Us was born: As I sat with her, I revealed that my alter-ego was that of a classical musician who lived in NYC and hoped very much to be playing the viola again soon - and I promised that when I COULD play again, I would come back and play for her.
The next day, I called my mom and said, "I want to start a concert series. I think I want it to be called Project: Music Heals Us." And with that, we started planning Season One...
When I was sixteen years old, I was eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant with a close friend when he asked a humorous but pointed question: “So what you’re choosing to do with your life is essentially this: You are going to move your arms back and forth repeatedly in order to make a strip of metal wiggle, which will then cause air molecules to bump into each other. How is it that you think you can make the world a better place to live in with this?” After a lengthy discussion on the power of music, our own artistic “calling,” and the benefits of the arts to the world we live in today, we broke open the complimentary fortune cookie customarily awarded with the bill and were both amused, but frankly startled, by the message we found inside, for it summarized the conclusions of our entire discussion: “Talents that are not shared are not talents.”
Since our discussion over ten years ago, that cookie’s message has stuck with me, often pulling me back up onto a ‘straight and narrow’ by reminding me of my purpose and calling as a musician, and shaping how I see myself and my work as an artist. So… what IS my purpose as an artist? Why IS it that I spend so much time locked away in a practice room crafting my ability to cause air molecules to collide – and how is it that this honed ability can actually benefit mankind?
I believe my purpose is to touch peoples’ hearts with the music that I make and, consequently, to spend my life in respectful and committed service to learning how best to accomplish this endeavor. I believe that when any art is at its most honest, honed, and dedicated it has the greatest potential to make a difference in any soul who experiences it.
Music is words shared with exquisite inflection, and in my mind, it is the purest form of expression. By its very nature, it can "...embody conflict of forces, depict interior states, suggest the infinite and invisible, encompass emotional change, mental flux, the process of becoming, with a completeness and immediacy unavailable to painting or poetry. It avoids both literalness and pictorial imagery, communicates meaning without committing itself to specific content." -Malcolm MacDonald
Indeed, music can break through and shake people from their self-absorbed, chaotic, and frequently isolated lives, soften their hearts, and enable them to recognize, feel, relate, and then even dance, sing, laugh, and cry all that they hold within but could never find a way to express – all without ever speaking a word. Music is the God-given "equalizer,” the unspoken language that holds the power to link any and all human souls together and remind both the performer and the listener alike that they are not alone.
When I consider all of this, the hours, days, and years throughout my life spent in practice rooms, along with any pressure or stress involved with performing - as well as any the pressure and stress involved with organizing and presenting this series(!) - suddenly becomes more than worthwhile. And what is more, when I consider the number of isolated and hurting souls longing for this equalizing connection to be found in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, homeless shelters, and prisons... what more is there to say? My path becomes clear and my work becomes a joy.
And so you may ask again: "How is it you can benefit society through an elusive art form?” I hope always to answer you with this: I wish to become a vehicle for the divine gift and link that is called music, penetrating and ministering to peoples' hearts. This is how I want to spend my life: In joyful appreciation of the gift I have been given, in committed service to sharing my talents with those who need to hear them most, while learning how best to speak that wordless language which knows no social boundaries, respectfully speaking with music what God has blessed me with the voice to say.
- MOLLY CARR, Founding Director