The Open to Hope Foundation’s Dr. Gloria Horsley talks with musician John Robinson about his work with grief and loss. He had a powerful experience playing music by his grandfather’s bedside in the hospital. After a heart attack, Robinson and his family found they didn’t have words to express how they felt. With music, Robinson began to communicate through the drums. It drowned out the background noise, and slowly families began to seek out Robinson to play privately for their own loved ones.
Nurses also took note of Robinson’s work, and saw that it was a great way to heal—for the player and recipient alike. Later, Robinson happened to meet a doctor in Philadelphia. The doctor was out for a run, and came up to Robinson. He was Robinson’s grandfather’s doctor, and told him that everyone at the hospital still remembers him. Robinson began to reach out to hospices, and began to slowly make his rounds in the grief community.
Instrumental to Healing
Today, Robinson has established programs and works with camps. Music is a great way to build a community while also communicating when words won’t do. He uses five gallon paint buckets, which can be played with just your hands if you like. You can play any side of the drum, and without seeing his instruments you wouldn’t know how simple the materials are.
The drums are designed and created locally, including the tire drum. Robinson makes drums to represent different emotions and messages, too. There’s an angry drum with a “hit me!” sign that lets grievers release negative emotions. Playing music has long been a form of art and creative therapy proven to optimize the healing process. By using simple objects, Robinson says his work is accessible.