A Story of Impact
Community Engagement with The Jackson Symphony
Throughout its 55 seasons of performances, the impact of The Jackson Symphony on the community of Jackson, Madison County and West Tennessee has been continuous and powerful in ways unseen by most of its citizens. The following stories provide insight into the Community Engagement work of The Jackson Symphony.
The Jackson Symphony Youth Orchestra and private string instruction program
Through its Youth Orchestra Ensembles and the private string instruction programs, children and adults have been touched in powerfully positive ways.
Elise Dougan came to the USA from Brazil as a child. She and her older sister spoke no English, but they played the violin. Upon coming to Jackson, they were invited to become a part of the Youth Orchestra through scholarships provided by The Jackson Symphony where they developed lasting relationships with their peers, began communicating through the language of music and then learned English. Elise went on to be a violin performance major in college. She is now the conductor of the beginning string ensemble, Camerata and assistant principle second violinist of The Jackson Symphony. She is passing her love of music and the violin to children throughout the Jackson community as a string teacher. “Without The Jackson Symphony Youth Orchestra, I would not be the person and musician I am today.” states Elise.
One current young person in the Youth Orchestra wrote a thank you note to a donor which said, “When I discovered my love for the oboe and orchestral music while playing with The Jackson Symphony Youth Orchestra, it saved my life.”
Another student wrote to her teacher, “Music is no longer something I can throw away like a passing fad. You taught me how to let music grow into my heart.”
The Integrative Music program began in the spring of 2015 under the direction of The Jackson Symphony’s Music Director and Conductor, Peter Shannon. Symphony musicians playing in the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and the Alice and Carl Kirkland Cancer Center have made an impact on the lives of the patients and their families through experiencing the healing power of live music.
After one performance, a patient’s husband remarked,” Thank you for coming – my wife comes for treatment every week, and this is the first time while here that she has had a smile on her face.”
Another patient told the musicians, “I made my appointment specifically for today because I knew you girls would be here to play!”
A Facebook post was received and it said, “It was such a blessing. We have had some down days and we needed it [music]. It soothed us so much! After the musicians left we talked about waltzing together ‘back in the day’. The violinists were excellent!”
One cancer patient ran up to the musicians, hugged them and said, “I have missed you because of surgery but now I only have two rounds of radiation left and I will be done with treatment. Thank you for being part of my healing process.”
“Thank you girls for coming and playing. It shows what big hearts you have and it is such a blessing and lifts us more than you realize.” Comments like these are frequent and heartfelt. Personal connections are made between the patients and the musicians. Even though no names are ever exchanged, the purest of blessings are experienced by musicians, patients and caregivers together.
An Administrator at the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital wrote about her experience:
I want to tell you a story. Once a week since April 7, I have had the opportunity to accompany two musicians from The Jackson Symphony to different parts of our hospital. Each week has been a very different experience, but two moments really stand out. During one of the sessions in Critical Care Waiting, a large group gathered around the musicians on one side of the waiting facility. Many had made requests, first this one then that, until finally, someone began to request traditional hymns. The violinist and flutist were happy to accommodate and started out with Be Though My Vision. Then, How Great Thou Art. And, when the two began Amazing Grace, the crowd burst into song, lifting their voices through the whole room. It was a moment I wasn’t sure we would top…until today.
Today, we chose inpatient rehab as our location. Our first stop was the hallway where a man waited in his wheelchair for speech therapy. Next was the open rehab room. And, then, as usual we moved to individual patient rooms to take requests. Time was running low. We had time for only one more room, when a nurse came to ask us to play for her patient who had suffered a brain bleed, and had since shown no facial expression. We entered to find Julie sitting in her chair with her head down. “Julie,” her family called to get her attention. “Momma, hold up your head,” her daughter pleaded. And Julie did. She raised her head to watch the musicians begin to play her favorite song, The Old Rugged Cross. As the final notes played, Julie turned her head to her husband and smiled.
Today, something wonderful happened at Jackson Madison County General Hospital, and I was there to witness it. This new program at JMCGH and the Kirkland Cancer Center is making a difference for our patients, and we are all blessed.
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The Jackson Symphony continues to impact and inspire the community through the power of live orchestral music.
If you would like to join in supporting the Community Engagement programs of The Jackson Symphony as part of your tax deductible yearly giving, you may use the donor envelope in your program and mail your donation or you may contact the administrative offices at 731-427-6440.