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The Healing Power of the Violin

September 29th, 2010 · No Comments · healing instruments, Healing Music Travel

For many people, the violin is the most healing instrument

Wayne Holfeldt lifts spirits and calms nerves at innovative UNM Arts-in-Medicine program
By Tiffany Maleshefski

Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Instrument: Violinist
Occupation: String teacher; retired account executive for Southern California Edison; ex-US Marine Corps interview manager
Affiliation: University of New Mexico, Arts-in-Medicine program
Quote: “I’ve played all across the United States. I’ve played Easter Passion Plays in Nashville and Handel’s Messiah in the High Desert. No matter where I go, there’s always a high demand not only for string teachers, but for string players.”

They call him the “Fiddler on the Roof.” That’s partly because violinist Wayne Holfeldt starts every set with the famous show tune, but also because he can be found high atop the third floor of the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center in Albuquerque. At least once a week, Holfeldt can be spotted by the center’s snack bar playing a familiar fiddle tune or a bit of jazz. He prefers to play popular music, show tunes, and movie stuff—the kind of tunes people recognize immediately.

Holfeldt is one of several musicians who participate in the university’s nationally recognized Arts-in-Medicine program, one of the largest outreach programs of its kind in the United States. Throughout the year, the ten-year-old program hosts scores of what it calls “creative encounters” with staff, patients, and families.

“I think it’s something that’s truly needed, and you get a lot of satisfaction seeing people enjoying your playing,” Holfeldt says.

You can find him playing during the lunch hour, serenading patients, technicians, doctors, and OR nurses fresh from the operating room and clad in scrubs.

“Sometimes they’ll be out there dancing on the floor,” he says.

No need to stay quiet in this hospital’s halls. Holfeldt recalls the time a doctor came out of his office to personally thank the violinist for the music drifting through the nuclear-medicine wing, which helped calm the patients who had appointments that day. Many times, the notes that spring from his violin reach the children’s wing. The parents, their interest piqued by the sound down the hall, journey to the snack bar to get a closer listen. “I glance to the right and there’s a line of [baby] strollers in the room watching me play,” he says.

Drawing that young audience is one of the real joys of the progran, he adds.

“My main goal is to expose young children to the violin,” he says. “The earlier you expose children to stringed instruments, the more string programs are going to grow and nurture and the more children will be interested in learning.”

To learn more about the University of New Mexico’s Arts-in-Medicine, visit artsinmedicine.unm.edu.

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