Brian and Judy Carlson are responsible for a new piano at the Sanford Thief River Falls Medical Center.

Hitting a high note through the gift of music

May 29, 2019

Nearly every night, Brian Carlson sits at his most prized possession – a grand piano – and plays his favorite melodies by heart. Tickling the ivories will always settle his nerves after a long day.

“It’s healing,” said Carlson, executive director of Sanford Thief River Falls Medical Center and Sanford Behavioral Health Center. “I’ll spend an hour a day when I get home to decompress and de-stress. I think a lot of people can benefit from music.”

So when the Sanford Thief River Falls Medical Center moved to its current location, Carlson had an idea: bring music into the facility. He identified the perfect spot for a piano in the clinic entrance and could already hear its melodies filling the air.

Soon after that, he contacted the Sanford Health Foundation in Thief River Falls about getting a piano for the medical center.

“I wanted my contributions to be more focused and directed toward something that is near and dear to my heart, and that is the gift of music,” Carlson said.

Carlson knew a piano would benefit everyone, from patients and families to guests and Sanford staff. Not only can music reduce stress, but studies have shown it to be a powerful tool in healing. In fact, music therapy is a part of Sanford’s integrative approach to caring for the whole person, mind, body and spirit.

Through the Foundation, Carlson and his wife, Judy, created a special piano fund and in February, his dream came true. A shiny, black Kawai grand piano was delivered in the medical center’s clinic entrance.

“I was very excited for it to finally arrive,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s hard to believe it’s here.”

The piano includes a unique feature, a player system, that creates music when a pianist isn’t available.

“When there aren’t people playing it, you can program it to play softly on its own and have music whenever you want,” Carlson said.

But Carlson expects to hear live music as much as possible. He hopes pianists in the community will play throughout the year, local piano students will perform recitals and musicians will schedule mini concerts during the holidays.

“I hope the overall impact is an appreciation for what music can do for a person in terms of healing,” he said. “That’s my hope, that my wife and I leave a legacy of healing through music.”

 

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