This story comes to JAZZ LIVES from veteran bassist and writer Bill Crow, who writes “The Band Room” column for members of the New York City musicians’ union, Local 802 — but non-members can read it, too, at http://www.local802afm.org/ :
When Ed Koch was mayor of New York City, he instituted free concerts in nursing homes in Queens. The free concerts took place under the title “Project Sunshine,” and were made up of volunteers. Bill Zinn’s “Ragtime String Quartet” played gratis in nursing homes all over Queens.
During one concert, Zinn noticed an elderly man keeping time to the music by tapping on the armrest of his wheelchair. While packing up the stands and sound system after the gig, Zinn struck up a conversation with the man, and suddenly a nearby nurse began to yell, “He’s talking!”
The man, a Long Island physician, had been in an automobile accident, was in a coma for months, awoke with a loss of memory, and had been incommunicative for about a year, just sitting in his wheelchair all day staring at a blank wall. The ragtime beat of the music played by Zinn’s group somehow jolted him back to awareness. When Zinn was offered a reward, he said, “I’ve been already compensated by the smile on the face of the doctor in the wheelchair.”
Music makes it possible for us to be reborn time after time, if only we are able to listen to its beauty deeply.