Walking into the lobby of Memorial Hospital North on a Friday afternoon, the last thing you might expect to find is a violinist playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
But there he is: Bryant So, with his lovely smile and his polite manners, a tall, handsome 17-year-old from Rampart High School, fills the lobby with music. So started volunteering three years ago, when he was a freshman, after researching volunteer opportunities and discovering the Healing Through Music program at Memorial.
About to enter his senior year of high school, So started playing violin when he was just 5 years old – and he’s obviously honed his craft well. When he finishes a tune, he often gets applause. Sometimes, visitors waiting in the lobby area even record him. They also come up to him and ask questions, or compliment him, or have musical requests, he said.
On this day, a fellow in a nearby overstuffed armchair has fallen asleep. Two women sit on a sofa facing the majestic mountain view out the grand picture windows, eyes half closed, listening.
Though So plays mostly classical music, he also plays appropriate contemporary tunes, like “You Raise Me Up,” and other “things appropriate for a hospital setting,” he said.
His favorite composer might be Elgar – “he’s written some beautiful music” – but he’s also fond of Mozart and Bach.
He plays for his high school orchestra and the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony, and has performed for fundraisers (for various events at the Senior Center, for CASA and other groups) but he finds his volunteer job at the hospital most rewarding.
“One time I had a veteran come up to me with tears in his eyes. It turns out he had lost a good friend and the song I was playing was the one his friend had at his funeral,” said.
“Another time, a woman came up to me and said her daughter was in the hospital and had just had a miscarriage. She asked me to come play for her. It was a powerful, moving experience.”
Bryant normally does not have contact with patients, though. He usually plays in public areas where family members of patients are waiting.
“I think it makes the waiting easier,” he said.
He normally plays every Friday afternoon from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and plans to continue to do so until he leaves for college in a year or so.
Only occasionally does someone not appreciate his efforts.
Bryant plans to have a double major in college – music and pre-med, with an emphasis on biology and chemistry. Beyond that, he’s not sure what path he‘ll pursue.
Even though he plans to earn a medical degree of some sort, he won’t forget his music, he said.
“Music will always be the most significant part of my life no matter what career path I choose. Music is in me and I’ll always be performing. One of my personal goals is to bequeath my love of music to my future kids.”
Playing music is, for So, its own reward.
“Volunteering has been a very rewarding experience for me,” he said. “Our lives have a sense of greater meaning when we are connected to one another. I chose to connect to others through music because music is a universal language that everyone, regardless of color, creed or religion, can connect with.”
Having played for people like that suffering Iraq war vet and the young woman who just lost her baby through a miscarriage “and many others from all walks of life with unknown private stories of anguish, loss and sadness” allows him “to be able to do my small part to uplift their spirit … and that is what volunteering in Healing Through Music is all about.”