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Music therapist takes talents to Va. hospital to help patients, staff cope with COVID

Music Therapist Ray Leone at Inova Loudoun hospital. Photo credit Jay Korff
Music Therapist Ray Leone at Inova Loudoun hospital. Photo credit Jay Korff
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When patients are in crisis at Inova Loudoun, Ray Leone is there.

“We know through our research that there are certain music therapy techniques that can help people reduce pain, reduce anxiety,” says Leone.

Leone is the Director of Medical Music Therapy for A Place To Be in Middleburg, Virginia and is the Head of Music Therapy at Inova Health System.

RELATED: A music therapist explains why you should be singing and listening to music right now

“When I hear him in our hallways doing his music it just puts a smile on my face,” says Inova Loudoun Director of Human Resources Sarah Pavlik.

This music therapist plays evocative melodies to help patients get through their hardest times. ICU nurse Devin Jackson has witnessed Leone’s power to calm.

“Whenever Ray is on the unit playing music, he’s there for the patients to uplift them, to settle their pain," Jackson says. "But what he really does is he uplifts the nurses’ spirits as well. I don’t know if he knows that.”

Since Leone can’t work directly with patients during the pandemic, he brought his gifts on the acoustic guitar to everyone at the hospital.

“And while we were going through just a very tumultuous, stressful time ourselves we thought wouldn’t it be great to use Ray’s time, talents and skills to help our own team," Pavlik says.

Leone has been working in these hallways and hospital rooms for five years. Near the end of March, Leone moved exclusively to the main hallway and played music to calm and soothe stressed-out nurses, doctors and staffers passing by.

Then he and administrators had an additional idea.

“Sometimes we need music to help us be in the moment we are in,” says Leone.

Leone asking for requests: songs that improve mood, change perspective and reset the soul. Dozens of requests poured in which led to a new program called 'Song of the Day."

Leone records requested songs at home and sends those videos out to everyone.

One of his favorites is "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters.

“I think we lose a sense of self during times like this and we lose control of things and when we lose control we feel anxious and just not right," Leone says. "But music gives us a sense of self because songs are very powerful, how we feel about them and what they mean to us."

For something more upbeat, he goes to Tom Petty’s "I Won’t Back Down." [You can view his YouTube playlist of songs he's recorded for healthcare workers by clicking here.]

“We all know that music is a great way to motivate and empower and Tom Petty’s 'I Won’t Back Down' sums it all up for me,” says Leone.

"Let it Be" by The Beatles is also a good go-to song for perspective.

“That’s a song where the meaning of the lyrics can change depending on what you are going through and feeling at the time,” adds Leone.

Devin Jackson, who is in the trenches as an ICU nurse, requested the "Timeless Angel from Montgomery" by songwriter John Prine, who died from COVID-19 complications.

“And he actually played it for us before he passed away so that brought everything together and hearing a song I love just made my day go that much more smoother," Jackson says.

Maybe in the COVID-19 age, our search for harmony is more magnified and music, when delivered just right, gives us exactly what we need.

“It’s rough," says Jackson. "It can be rough. But we have a great team. We have great music to listen to and those are the little things that get us through our day."

Leone hopes to return soon to the hospital to, again, work directly with patients. Leone has recorded dozens of songs for the "Song of the Day" project that is now a weekly project.

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For more information on the varied programs offered by A Place To Be, click here.

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