Performance Considerations for Hospice Volunteer Musicians

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Introduction: Volunteer musicians play a crucial role in in-patient hospice units by supporting holistic patient care. Currently, resources about creating an appropriate performance in a hospice setting is limited for volunteers. It is believed that though every performance is unique, there are underlying themes in environment, repertoire selection, and additional musical elements that could be standardized to provide support for hospice volunteer musicians.

Methods: Detailed conversations with musicians who have played at a hospice unit and prerecorded performances provided by the Thomas Jefferson University’s volunteer group “No One Dies Alone” (NODA) were analyzed using the seven fundamental characteristics of music. Each conversation and performance provided data concerning the setting, instrument utilized, common alterations made to repertoire lists, and songs frequently performed. This study condenses these characteristics and provides recommendations for hospice volunteer musicians interested in enhancing their current performance practices.

Results: The data shows that there is a high preference for selecting songs that have an AABA form, homophonic texture, lyrics, conventional I-IV-V-I progressions, legato melody, andante tempo, and mf dynamics. Other variables such as environment and instrument selection did not provide definitive conclusions. Music therapists preferred a one-on-one setting with standard music therapist instruments (guitar, percussion, piano), whereas volunteer musicians preferred a group setting with their primary instrument.

Discussion: Our findings suggest that there are unifying features between each musicians’ performances within a hospice setting. These results can be used by volunteers to add their own repertoire lists, alter specific pieces, and create a space that better supports patient care. In addition, our findings could serve as a foundation for future research by providing standard performance guidelines in which additional variables, such as patient satisfaction, can be more accurately measured.



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