Thursday, July 5, 2012
Local musician Jay Craven’s clarinet skills have given him the opportunity to jam with Benny Goodman, play alongside Rod Stewart and tour the White House.
But he said none of that compares to the satisfaction he gets from playing at Memorial Hospital, where he volunteers weekly.
“All of that stuff was exciting and thrilling, but the main thing is that it prepared me to be here,” he said. “To be able to play at the hospital for people who are hurting, worried, upset and discouraged, to be able to play for them and lift them up is a real ministry for me.”
A clarinetist for the Chattanooga Symphony and Orchestra for more than half a century, Craven, at 82 years old, dedicates at least two days a week to playing at Memorial Hospital’s downtown location and another three days a month to play at Memorial’s branch locations in Hixson and Ooltewah.
He said plays anywhere in the hospital as people request him or he feels God directs him, but he can only play in a patient’s room if he is invited.
“Sometimes the nurses will come by and stick a piece of paper on my leg with a room number,” he said.
Describing what it feels like to play for people all over the hospital, some of whom are dying or nonresponsive, is difficult, Craven said, but adds he’s happy to do it because he never knows which songs will ring a bell with someone and help them recover.
He recounted a story where he played at a local church and a man came up to him after the performance and said Craven’s music had saved his life. The man had been in the hospital for 41 days and had given up, but when he heard Craven’s rendition of “You Raise Me Up” he said it gave him the strength to get better.
“We just feel so blessed to have Jay [Craven] and the other musicians here, because it can really help our patients,” said Memorial Hospital Volunteer Coordinator Jean Payne. “Studies have shown that music has healing properties and research indicates that music is very therapeutic.”
In addition to playing live each week, Craven has also produced five CDs that can be purchased at Memorial’s gift shop. All proceeds go to the hospital’s patient services funds that provide things like additional signage and wheelchairs for people.