One Wednesday afternoon a sudden eruption of beautiful sounds filled Beth Israel Brooklyn. Blue smocks identified the performers as volunteers. Bonnie Edner, Dov Hirsch and Joshua Reis started singing a tune in a language that sounded familiar, accompanied on keyboard by John Louis. Their voices soared and filled the lobby atrium as patients and visitors passed through and staff lingered to listen.
The trio picked what they thought was an apt opening number — Hatikva — Israels national anthem. “After all, we are at Beth Israel!” said Reis, an avid a-cappella singer who recently became a volunteer along with his dorm roommate and fellow singer Hirsch.
“Music provides a wonderful diversion for patients and caregivers. It can bring back memories of youthful vigor and foster a sense of normalcy and well-being,” said Marguerite Corda, RN, MSN, vice president for patient care services at Beth Israel.
According to Volunteer Services Coordinator Maia Makharadze, in addition to performing in the lobby Wednesday afternoons, groups of two to three musicians will bring music to nursing units and on special request, by a patients bedside, on Mondays and Fridays for as long as three hours each day.
In addition to Edner, Hirsch, Reis and Louis, other musician volunteers include Jed Jean Claude, Donovan Desir, Ann Glasser, Jayvon Evans, Rose Huczko, Patrice Sinclair and Vikens Vilpique. Huczko, a Eucharistic minister who admittedly lifts the groups average age, is young at heart and sings with a great deal of gusto.
Many of the volunteers are college students pursuing careers in healthcare; a few still are in high school; one is working on a masters degree in business administration; and one is an aspiring actor. They all live in communities surrounding Beth Israel Brooklyn — Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Canarsie and Sheepshead Bay.
For almost an hour, they performed medleys of past and present hits, culminating in a rousing rendition of Leonard Cohens “Hallelujah,” which garnered a standing ovation from the crowd that stayed to the last note.
“We are happy to be able to showcase our multitalented volunteers,” Rhona Hetsrony, vice president for administration at Beth Israel Brooklyn, said in a news release. “We are extremely grateful for their gift of time and beautiful music.”