Harpist's Soothing Music Cheers UMC Patients

Mr. Pavlovich's musical visits to UMC are underwritten by a grant from the UMC Foundation.

While walking the bustling corridors of University Medical Center, there are many sounds to take in. You’ll hear hospital beds being carted around, hushed hallway conversations, and loud overhead pages. And some days you can hear the soft sounds of Tucsonan professional musician David Pavlovich playing his harp for the patients in the hospital.

Mr. Pavlovich’s musical visits to UMC are underwritten by a grant from the UMC Foundation. The life-long harpist, who has been performing in hospitals nationwide for years, moved to Tucson about two years ago and started playing at UMC in 2007. He wheels his 6-foot-tall harp into the busy hospital twice a week.

“Everybody – the patients, the staff, our visitors -- absolutely love the music. The therapy he provides is just phenomenal,” said Lori Throne, RN, director of children’s services. “Not long ago he played in the Newborn ICU where we were caring for some very fussy, irritable preemies. The babies calmed down and fell asleep in the nurses’ arms while he played.”

The therapeutic music that David Pavlovich offers requires playing different styles of music for different situations. “In order to do this, you need to deliberately and consciously take into account what is going on with the patient, the staff and the family members,” he said. “I usually start in the hallways, but families and patients sometimes invite me into their rooms to play for them especially.”

He said he was inspired by the monks of Cluny, France, who observed centuries ago that music seems to alleviate pain from physical illness. Modern research suggests music therapy may stabilize heart rates and blood pressure, improve respiratory function and reduce recovery time, he said. Mr. Pavlovich said he’s seen increased lucidity in patients with memory loss, and emotional release for end-of-life patients and their family members.