The soft notes echoed down hallways and into rooms. For a brief moment, it overtook the sounds of chatter at the nurse’s station and the beeping of machines.
“I enjoy this — just to be a part of something larger than myself,” said Jose Smith as he strummed his fingers over the strings of his harp.
For almost 30 years, Smith has carried his harp through the halls at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. During that time, he has serenaded nurses, given staff a moment of peace and calmed worried parents.
“It felt so good that music could provide such a release from the chaos and stress,” the retired teacher said.
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However, Smith’s greatest moments happen when he can play for a child.
“One smile from a young patient, and then I can go on for much more time,” Smith said.
On Thursday, Smith stopped in the middle of a hallway to let 9-year-old Angel Garcia strum his harp.
“Many have never touched the harp,” Smith said with a smile. “If I can get them to strum, now they’ve had a new experience with a beautiful instrument.”
The harp briefly distracted Angel from the leukemia that has kept him inside Rady Children’s for more than three months.
“It just made me feel way happier,” the boy said, smiling from behind his mask.
“He is just like magic,” exclaimed registered nurse Kim Brasseur, who looks forward to Smith’s visits.
“He just kind of makes them forget about why they’re here in the first place,” Brasseur said. “It brings peace, too. It brings peace, it brings joy.”
A doctor once told Smith the music is also a step in the healing process.
“Patient’s will get better, but first they have to feel better, and music helps them feel better,” he said.
Smith plays for several hours a week as part of Rady Children’s Hospital’s Healing Arts program. He also occasionally roams the halls with his accordion or guitar.