Henrique Eisenmann, Miki-Sophia Cloud, Oded Hadar Perform for COVID-19 Patients

“Most of the patients were unconscious and intubated, but still I could connect with them through music,” says Henrique, who joins the efforts of musicians and doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital to support ICU patients.

Henrique Eisenmann, pianist, speaks to CNN from his home, with a piano and bookshelf in the background

Over the past few weeks, NEC musicians Henrique Eisenmann ’12 MM, ’17 DMA, Miki-Sophia Cloud ’20 DMA, and Oded Hadar ’13 MM have been performing as on-call musicians for COVID-19 patients, performing live music through Facetime in the ICU at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.

“I have played music for dozens of medical staff and patients. Most of the patients were unconscious and intubated, but still I could connect with them through music,” says Henrique.

The project was initiated by Dr. Rachel Easterwood at NewYork-Presbyterian, who trained as a classical musician before becoming a doctor. As she told the New York Times in a recent story about the initiative, “There are very few things in this world where you can transcend time, and your place...music is one of those things. It adds a level of humanity to a situation that I think this virus has taken away.”

Musicians have been coordinated by Project: Music Heals Us, led by violist Molly Carr, whose own trio includes her husband, Oded Hadar ’13 MM.

Henrique Eisenmann's whiteboard with a setlist for NY Presbyterian COVID patients

Choosing music for this moment

”These patients are completely lonely in the ICU, with no family, no visitors allowed, surrounded by the sounds of beeping machines and overwhelmed doctors. Music offers this incredible possibility to share the patient's burden, offer companionship, breathe together,” says Henrique.

“I was searching for repertoire that could be familiar, evoking memories, emotions, images. Also, as COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, I was searching for repertoire that featured a sense of deep breath, with long phrases, pauses, and slow movements, as if to invite the patient to enter that calm breathing state.”

Violinist Miki-Sophia Cloud ’20 DMA responded to a patient's request for relaxation with Bach, but when she heard the patient coughing, she followed up by switching to viola. “I just played the low strings in a very calming, steady, slow rhythm for about 30 minutes,” she told the New York Times.

Music as an act of generosity

“The real impact of our art happens when we connect with our community. It repurposes our efforts; it does create a change in the world,” says Henrique.

“I was an active Community Performances & Partnerships Fellow when I was a student, and I have never ceased to participate in community performances ever since. The purpose and power of music should never be limited to the concert hall, practice room, and audition room. To play music is also an act of generosity.”

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