Dr. Travis Marcum, Austin Classical Guitar’s Director of Education since 2005, has been at the forefront of ACG’s Music and Healing Initiative in recent years. Tune in as Dr. Marcum discusses a magical time where music truly touched a family.

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Over the last 18 months I’ve been meeting with long-term patients at Dell Children’s Hospital as part of ACG’s Music & Healing Initiative. Every child I’ve met and every experience I’ve had there has been unique, but I wanted to share a particularly special encounter I had recently.

I work closely with Della Malloy-Daugherty, the hospital’s staff music therapist, to create individualized musical experiences for each patient. These experiences vary depending on the child, and can be guitar lessons, bedside concerts, writing an original song, or singing together.

In early April, I met with a teenage girl – I’ll call her Anna – who expressed interest in taking guitar lessons during the three months she was hospitalized for a major procedure. We met every few days to have a lesson, play guitar, and talk about life and music.

Within moments of our first meeting, I learned that Anna had lived in Spain, and was a huge fan of flamenco music. Soon after, I found out that ACG’s good friend and world-class flamenco guitarist, Grisha, would be in Houston for a concert in May.  

I had an idea.

With help from Edward Grigassy, director of the Houston Guitar Initiative, and thanks to the kindness and generosity of Grisha, we were able to arrange a private concert for Anna.

Grisha and Anna met in a small room in the hospital’s rehabilitation wing. She pulled her seat up within inches of his guitar as a thundering, muted rasgueado rang out, signifying the beginning of a Bulerias. Anna leaned in, her jaw dropped, so close she could feel the breeze from Grisha’s right hand.

Before long Anna’s father, mother, and brother all gathered in the room. When they heard Grisha play, they were in disbelief.

“You have brought me home! You have brought me a piece of my home in Andalusia!” her father exclaimed.

Between songs they shared stories. Grisha talked about the first time he met Paco de Lucía, and Anna recalled memories of living in Zamora as a child, eating bocadillo in the park and hearing music in the distance.

Grisha played for well over an hour, Anna transfixed on his hands, her father humming along with the melodies – many of which he knew by heart.

Before his last piece, Grisha said, “I have studied my whole life to do this, I practice all the time. But this music does not exist without you … it means so much more because of you.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. For a moment, the cold, sterile hospital room was filled with warmth, feelings of community, and memories of home. Grisha finished his last piece and signed Anna’s guitar before giving everyone a big hug goodbye.

The goal of ACG’s Music & Healing Initiative is simply to be together and let the music direct us. Music, like water, finds the path of least resistance. Music can soften and calm. It can give purpose and offer an open space to receive all kinds of difficult feelings and emotions.