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Music at the End of Life: Songs for the Dying

Musicians offering their talents at the end of life, playing music and writing songs to honor the dying & the dead.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This project is designed for the dying, their families and the artist community offering the service. It's a collective of musicians trained to use their musical talent to hold space for the dying. These musicians will not only play music for the dying, but write original musical pieces inspired by the patients and their lives, songs which will honor them before and after their deaths.

MUSIC AT THE END OF LIFE IS A MUSIC HOSPICE PROGRAM DESIGNED TO CREATE MEANING AT THE END OF LIFE WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THE DYING/DEAD AND THE LIVING, USING MUSIC TO ACCOMPANY THE END OF LIFE WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY CREATING A MUSICAL LEGACY TO SHARE WITH THE WORLD.

Local musicians will be made available to local hospice, pairing patients with artists. These musicians will meet regularly with the patients to visit, talk and play music for them and their communities. In an ongoing exploratory conversation with SF-based Zen Hospice Project, the option of training designed specifically for musicians involved in this project, with the ultimate intention of a fully realized program from start to finish, is being considered. A talk with Bay Area's Hospice by the Bay offered the possibility of pairing volunteers or nurses for musician visits in lieu of requiring full hospice volunteer training. 

During these visits, the musicians will get to know patients by talking with them and their community, ultimately creating original songs to present to these people, whether privately and/or for their communities.

Regularly, local live concerts will be held for the dying, the dead and their communities, where musicians participating in the project will perform their original work in honor of those we're losing or have lost. These concerts will raise money to put back into the project, the hospice programs that care for the patients and the artists. As an additional fundraiser opportunity, the songs will be recorded and compiled for online download, with all proceeds going to the project, artists, hospice and maybe even families of the dead and dying who may be in need of financial support. The You're Going to Die live events series currently has the monthly venue and audience attendance to showcase the artists work.

The bigger goal is to help create meaning during a time when meaning-making is most difficult. The intention is to help further bridge the gap between the living [the majority of us who aren't confronted by death and dying on a daily basis] and the dying, in inspiring, powerful ways, through sharing the music and the stories of these musicians and their patients with the world. The project's focus is to have our dead and dying treated as we hope to be. How can you face your own inevitable death in a culture where the dying and dead aren't honored powerfully, publicly, or indefinitely?


                                                THE USER EXPERIENCE MAP

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What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Here in the Bay Area, born from years of producing live shows in the conversation of death and dying [You're Going to Die - www.yg2d.com], I have the resource of hundreds of musicians that care about this mortal conversation with the heart and skills to powerfully articulate it. Through my own hospice volunteer work and contact with several Bay Area hospices, including an ongoing conversation with The Zen Hospice Project, the relationships are there to start hospice training for these musicians.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Some questions that we need help with:
What kind of musicians are a good fit for this project?
How can we screen the musicians to make sure?
Starting musician hospice training is where the project will can start to take shape now.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm the creator/producer of You're Going to Die [www.yg2d.com], a live event series & online movement bringing people creatively into the conversation of death & dying, while helping to inspire & empower them out of the context of unabashedly confronting loss & mortality. I'm a hospice volunteer.

This idea emerged from

  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter
  • An Individual

91 comments

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Photo of Victoria Perroni
Team

Dear Ned,

What made you decide to tackle this specific problem? I have to say, I was not aware of this market before reading this article, but what you’re doing is impressive!

Two questions. How do you plan on sustaining this project past the years you spoke about above? Is this something that you plan on growing nationally and possibly internationally? Good luck on future endeavors.

Sincerely,
Victoria

Photo of sambhav
Team

https://www.minds.com/blog/view/736818900867489799

Photo of Tim Meadows
Team

Music does have amazing power with people near end of life.  I recently had the amazing experience of being sung to by the "Threshold Choir" who sang beautiful harmonies while I lay in a chair simulating a patient.  Very moving and powerful experience for me and several others who had a chance to lay in the chair and hear the choir sing to them too.  Patients facing end of life who receive live music from skilled performers are especially blessed while others who hear recorded music played experience similar benefits too. 

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Tim Meadows Oh! I can't believe you got to sit with the Treshold Choir as a simulation! I know the choir & I can imagine, for someone who isn't actively dying, that must have been a singularly unique & transformative experience. Wow. 

Photo of Justine Marsh
Team

Hi Ned!  Congratulations on being a Top Idea! I think you absolutely nailed the concept of the power of music in end-of-life care.  Did you know there are highly-trained Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BCs) who can implement EXACTLY what you have proposed?? Music therapists working in end-of-life care work to establish a relationship with hospice patients and their families through the creation of meaningful music experiences that can include songwriting and creating musical legacies.  Music therapists can also help address bereavement issues and (if appropriate) perform patient works during memorial services. Many music therapists even have additional certification in end-of-life care, and many work with community volunteer musicians to bring additional music to patients and families who may want it.  

If you are interested, check out the American Music Therapy Association (www.musictherapy.org), and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (www.cbmt.org) to find MT-BCs in your area.  

Keep up the great ideas!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Yes. As you can imagine, I've come across many stories & people involved in variations of this work. So many great resources & précis ting communities to build on & connect to. Thank you so much for the input & links, Justine Marsh 

Photo of Ozuluonye Shedrack
Team

Hi, congratulation as you emerge winner

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Thank you, Ozuluonye Shedrack 

Photo of OpenIDEO IDEO
Team

Congrats on being a Top Idea, Ned! It's been absolutely inspiring to see how you've developed Music at the End of Life to re-imagine the end-of-life experience for ourselves and our loved ones. What an amazing journey it has been. In the coming weeks, we'll be making an official announcement to celebrate you and the other Top Ideas of the End of Life Challenge.



In the meantime, we would love for you to share your story in the upcoming End of Life Impact Phase. The Impact Phase is a space where the OpenIDEO community can share updates on how our projects are progressing beyond the challenge. For reference, here's a template for writing an Impact phase story:http://ideo.pn/1U9DrSN Well done Ned!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Thank you for offering the space to take risks, to create & clarify, to realize... I feel connected to a vaster community, with expanded potential & possibilities, & I wouldn't have arrived without OpenIDEO 

Photo of Joy Johnston
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I love the idea of personalized music being created for those departing this world, and how that music would in turn be used to promote awareness and encourage a greater public conversation on death and dying.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Thank you so much for the note, Joy Johnston !

Photo of Cheryl Espinosa-Jones
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Wow, great graphics to amplify your idea!! And again, beautiful, simple idea. I've been writing a little music for some arts and grief workshops I'm leading and it feels so good to do. Although the musicians might think they are (only) offering service, I'm sure they would end up feeling they got as much as they gave!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Yes, Cheryl Espinosa-Jones ... I 100% AGREE!

Photo of OpenIDEO
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Welcome to the refinement phase Ned! Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:

1. How might this idea address the unique needs of the target audience you're designing for?
2. Clearly summarize the value offering of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps http://ideo.pn/UX_Map
4. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value offering: http://bit.ly/1Oi8ZHu
5. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 07/12" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Great to see the updates Ned! We're also looking forward to seeing updates on the progress of planning Music at the End of Life. E.g. have you taken steps to plan the first pilot of this idea at Bay Area hospices? What learnings and feedback have you received? How might you build on the YG2D program to launch this idea? We'd also love it if you might describe in detail how people might experience this idea by creating a User Experience map (link included above.)

Looking forward to your updates before the end of Refinement!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Thanks for the note, Shane Zhao ... As a matter of fact, I just got my Experience Map up today. You can see it loaded above! As I mention in the project details, I'm in communication with both Zen Hospice Project and Hospice by the Bay as options for training and pairing musicians with patients. I also have a great pool of musicians interested in starting the program. The easiest part of the idea is that the live concert space is already available monthly to make space for the musicians and their work. Also, I'm continuing my daily work of integrating learnings & feedback; there's a lot of great input to work with! Thanks so much for the supportive & focusing comment...

Photo of John E
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I love this new idea. So real and concrete. The ability to make a real impact. I can see it seriously going places. Many places. Overwhelming possibilities.

I have very little experience with actual death right in front of me. As an artist, this is something I would be interested in, but also wary of. For some reason, it feels like the musician also needs to be trained in hospice care or have a degree or something? But that might limit the scope of artists who can become involved. That’s a conundrum.

You bring this up and yes, it’s crucial that a hospice organization gets involved. I think. Or is it? Is what you’re creating a service that contracts itself to various hospices? You have a relationship with various hospices and they offer you as an option to patients (are they called patients?) as they check in? Do they check in?

As far as the creative aspect, that’s a little tricky too. If I were dying and got involved with this, what if the song weren’t any good? :) I guess its existence alone is meaningful? Something after you’re gone? I get that. The concept of writing songs inspired by or based upon the stories of the near dying is wonderful. I would want to do it. Maybe there’s a privacy option for the patient? They write a letter or a story to a songwriter and that songwriter returns a song to them? Meeting is not necessary, but optional? Case by case basis? I see the value in both. Flexibility.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Thanks, @John E ... Some really valuable input here. Great questions!

Photo of Lydia Harutoonian
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This is a PHENOMENAL idea. As a musician who has also midwifed the passing of my own mother, I know too well the excruciating experience of navigating the hospice experience. Not only is it challenging on a personal, existential level, but the way the dying can be treated like faulty machinery from insurance companies, medical establishments and even the funeral home leaves a desperate need for services which offer respect for the personal, human story.  There is so much in the gift of music, whether it's playing songs that the person and their family or friends loved throughout their life and offering emotional relief in that moment, or actually writing a song that captures something for the dying person, at the end of life this offers such a profound kind of love, attention, and kindness that is sometimes even difficult for caretakers to offer because they are so overwhelmed but all they have to hold and sort through.  I don't have much structural feedback, but just want to heartily back up Ned in this project. He is a bright beacon in his community, and I know would put a passion, love, and authenticity behind this project that would be infectious for anyone who participated in it with him. Music is a brilliant way to help folks metabolize all that can come with the end-of-life experience. It would be medicine put to good use, and would be a gift for both artist and patient alike.  

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Lydia Harutoonian ! This is so eloquently put... Thank you so much. 

Photo of Joanna Spoth
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Hi Ned! I wanted to quickly share some feedback we recently received from our sponsors and advisory panel The part of your idea that stood out of the most to Alex Drane, on our Advisory Panel, was that out-of-work musicians could come in and write a song specifically for the dying person. There's something so genuine and caring about the mixing of those two things.
 

We look forward to seeing the exciting progress your idea will make during this last week of the Refinement phase!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Yes, Joanna Spoth ... For me, it's the heart of the idea. While I expect that the individuals involved, both patients & musicians, will encounter any number of inspiringly emotional, spiritual & human surprises throughout the experience, the arrival at creation out of the end of life - to create something new in the wake of loss - and then to be able to share that legacy with the world, seems to me powerful beyond imagining. 

Photo of Anisse
Team

I love this idea. As a writer who has participated at several of Ned's YG2D events, I can testify to the impact that it's had not only in my life, but in the life of this community. The artists and musicians who have been invited to participate in the shows have broadened my own ideas about the experience of death and dying, and have made me more invested in the larger conversation. My mother is a hospice nurse and longtime hospice educator and has always stressed the important role that music plays in the dying process. She has been an advocate for incorporating music into the world of hospice, and I can't wait to see this project take hold. 

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Thank you, Anisse ... 

Photo of Cheryl Espinosa-Jones
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Hi Ned, As you can imagine I LOVE this idea! The last week of my first wife's life, I hardly spoke at all- I sang everything to her. I sang for my dad, and for my mom. The idea that we could make it a creative project in the broader community... and make one on one connections is really wonderful. Thanks for it.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Love this comment, Cheryl Espinosa-Jones ... Thank YOU.

Photo of Paul Ennis
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Ned - A powerful and deep idea. Clearly, the feedback/comments from the musicians themselves paints a lovely picture. As things unfold I'd like to keep our dialogue going 'cuz my emphasis on the Home Death Care-focused end-of-life-experience fits so perfectly and intimately with 'Music at the End of Life'. I believe HDCR could provide increased visibility, public awareness, networking and cross-pollination to your efforts/ideas through the programs, website, YouTube channel, twitter feed, etc., that are being created at this time via Home Death Care Resources. BTW, if you'd like to add me/HDCR to your team please feel free to do so. Your thoughts? - PWE

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Thanks so much, Paul Ennis ! Of course teaming up with as many movements that can integrate one into the other would be of the highest value. The End of Life reality deserves great attention, intention & creative community. 

Photo of Tom Rhodes
Team

Having some personal experience with this I can say that performing under these circumstances takes a certain kind of musician. Being with someone in hospice is overwhelming experience. Hospice is generally for the very end stages of an illness, and the time available would be very short, often under 72 hours. The performers would need to be able, and available on a very short notice. Writing a song about someone specifically could take more time than they have left.

Here are my suggestions based on those observations. 
1. I would use the original compositions for fundraising mostly. There will be times when people can and will make music about the person that they are playing for, but I think that would be the exception and not the rule. That would make that music more for the families of the departed rather than the person in hospice.
2. Playing music that the person is familiar with and enjoys can do wonders, so gathering information from family or the person in hospice  would go a long way towards creating a joyful experience. I would also recommend having musicians who are good at learning songs quickly and adapting to different styles. 
3. I would recommend having a large number of musicians available for scheduling. This will be the hardest part I believe. I'm not sure how many musicians will be able or willing to do this type of performance. I have played at a number of funerals and spent time with people in hospice, each one of those events was a real kick in the gut. Death doesn't always mean great sadness, but it is an incredibly intense experience. There will need to be some sort of protocol for preparing artist for the experience and for decompressing afterwards.
4. It might be an idea that works well with a single visit to a hospice wing of a hospital/care facility by a few performers at once. Each one with a diverse ability to perform different types of music, including religious and and non-religious music at the patients request. 

All in all I think that this is a beautiful idea, and I would love to see what comes of it. I would consider though that having a performance in a safe venue where we discuss and intellectualize the experience of death is very different than being there when it is happening. I would strongly recommend making sure that each artist involved understands this and has some type of experience before their first performance. 

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Tom Rhodes What great feedback from the musician's perspective. Particularly valuable considering your experience. You really help clarify a fact I've been mulling over on this project: That the musician needs to be a certain kind of musician, a certain kind of person, someone who has graceful flexibility, emotionally, thoughtfully & artistically. Totally agree with that. also, the idea that the program should support musicians after the project has run its course.

Photo of Chelsea Coleman
Team

I'm more and more inspired by this idea as it takes shape.  From the perspective of a musician, I want to chime in on this idea of Making Meaning at the end of life.  The bigger goal that Ned writes about above, in my mind, not only includes making meaning for the people who are dying and their loved ones, but also for the musicians. Singing for dying people is most meaningful thing I've ever done with my music.  Creating a channel for individuals who otherwise might not have much contact with dying people, to participate in the movement toward bringing death out of the shadows and back in its place of honor and care.  So in my mind, this is for everyone.  For the dying, their loved ones, for the musicians, and for the audience of the work created through this process.   It's an extension of what is already going on at the You're Going To Die events, where we let songs, stories, talk of death and grief inhabit the room with us.  It's part of the movement to bring death into the awareness of more people, in increasingly authentic ways.

To continue my thoughts about the musicians specifically.. It can be difficult sometimes, as a songwriter and performer to feel like we are offering something of value.  Writing songs for a dying person's enjoyment, comfort, legacy is meaningful in a more concrete way. Offering a person a song lets both the dying person and the writer feel seen and heard in a way that maybe neither of them have felt.  The possibility for human connection and expansion of our capacity for compassion is huge.  

As for logistics.. I like the idea of piggy backing on a training program already in place through a hospice organization, or having musicians accompanied by trained nurses or volunteers.  I would hope we can come up with an easeful way for musicians to get on board.  As in- not too much hassle. I'd love to keep the process face-to-face and without a ton of forms or formalities.  But I understand some of that will be needed.  I just envision it being a very people-oriented organization, where everyone involved can easily get ahold of someone within the org to talk to about any issues or needs that may arise.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Thanks for this feedback, Chelsea Coleman ... And I agree, while the project would ask significantly of the musician, it should be balanced with as much ease & support as possible.

Photo of Scott Ferreter
Team

This project would take something that so many musicians privately do and it would build infrastructure around it so that its impacts can be felt more fully, more publicly, and across a broader population. As a musician who has inadvertently become specialized in playing in end-of-life and funeral situations, I can say that the potential here is tremendous, and the need for infrastructure is dire. I have been invited by hospice workers to play for their patients, and while it was very healing and beautiful for everyone involved, it was also draining because of the extent to which we were all winging it. Having a community with varying levels of experience would go a long way in getting uncomfortable and unnecessary snafus out from inbetween the humans and the music. 
        One thing that feels important to say is that the musicians would need to be performers (not just songwriters) and have a great sense of humor. Inviting a family and dying patient to feel more deeply is only helpful so long as that performer (and their hospice support network) are able to hold space for the depth of feeling that comes up, and part of that means being able to express the full range of human emotions. I've found humor to be more important in this setting than any other.
        Zoe Boekbinder is a musician who leads songwriting workshops in prisons and then tours the songs that she co-writes with the prisoners. She calls herself a human tape recorder, since recording devices aren't allowed in prison. I think a similar project is needed for the sacred spaces created around the dying, and this is it.
         I definitely think that the original compositions based on the lives of the dying should be secondary to playing music (both original songs and those chosen by the patient). The idea of having one's story put into a song and performed would scare off a lot of people whose process could be greatly deepened with some simple strumming and singing. The possibility of writing a song should be suggested as an option down-the-line only if the patient or family desire it.
       I feel you're on the brink of something hugely transformative, Ned. Thanks for being brave enough to dream this big. I'm going to pass this on to Kathy Herrfeldt, who owns an end-of-life care business in Sacramento and who has asked me to play for patients dear to her heart.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

I particularly like this phrase, Scott Ferreter : "its impacts can be felt more fully, more publicly, and across a broader population." Love your musician's perspective, coming from experience close to death. This idea of Zoe Boekbinder & practicing as living recorders if people's lives & deaths helps imagine this powerfully. The artist's act of being there at the end to bounce it all out to the world through their craft. It reminds me of my hope/intention to use a project like this to create meaning when meaning seems hard to locate, but to also bridge the gap, using the power of artistry, between the dying & the living. Thanks for the note about the focus on playing for the patients before creating music for them... It should be that the musicians know its a goal to being SOMETHING from the experience back into the live setting. Not necessarily a specific song about the dying/dead. The show feels especially important to "bridge the gap," as I put it.  And yes please send along to Kathy! Thanks for all of this...

Photo of Silvi Alcivar
Team

this project feels so worthy of time and attention and space to open up what music translates of hearts and spirit that sometimes just words can't. 

teaming up with hospice to train people seems a great idea. no need to completely reinvent wheels and it anyone doing this work will want and need some training in holding space and being present with what's in the room, especially if they don't have experience with death and dying. 

resolution care (located in humboldt county) is an organization that works with people at the end of life and may be a great resource for support and guidance as this project builds itself into being. 

also strikes me there could be partnership between musicians and writers and therapists and counselors--people who have experience honing in on stories and holding emotional/complex experiences in the service of healing. 

thank you for pursuing this project. excited to see it come to light. 

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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This is great, Silvi Alcivar ... Thanks for the extra feedback. Lots of great stuff to work with. I have extensive notes!

Photo of Brett Cline
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this is a fantastic idea! ned's work has been critical in opening the conversation of "death and dying" amongst living circles of artist, musician's and their supporters. this seems like a natural extension of his work, as it now would bring those same musician's into the realm of hospice care... and sharing their music with those who are dying.

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

thanks, Brett Cline !

Photo of Mansoor Fassihi
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Hey Ned, 

What a brilliant idea! Immediately what popped into my mind is a kind of musical theater performance. Perhaps the musicians could work with the families to recapture some of their fondest memories of the individual in theatrical form (along with a soundtrack). This would be another way for those grieving to express their love for the individual. Of course you would need trained actors and rehearsals, but I think this could be both a poignant and playful way of commemorating and communicating what the person dying has meant to them. 

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Manny Fassihi - Love the next leveling you've thrown at me here. Great goodness. 

Photo of christina
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Dear Ned

You are probably already aware of the various Music Thanology organisations and trainings, but just in case a few quick links:
http://www.mtai.org/
http://harptherapycampus.com/
http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ehsl-GerInt/id/58

Great Idea!!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

Excellent! These are all great & much appreciated. Thank you & please keep them coming...

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
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Hey Ned, this is a fabulous, powerful idea and one that's worthy of pursuing further.  I'd love to brainstorm about how a business model might be developed to make sure the artists' time was appropriately compensated. God knows musicians deserve it....

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

I think so, too, Ken Rosenfeld ... And I appreciate a note on this project that acknowledges the value of that artist's contribution. I think the fact that all the artists would be a part of this project for months - from meeting their patients, meeting with their patients regularly, creating for their patients & then performing in a show for them & their communities - makes the need to acknowledge them by supporting their life as an artist an important goal for this idea.

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
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Hey Ned, we should find time to sit down in SF sometime soon.  Brad Wolfe and I were talking last week about follow-on activities related to the Challenge, and your idea might fit in well with them.  Feel free to email me at hosenfeld@yahoo.com and we'll set something up!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
Team

E-mailed you, Ken Rosenfeld !

Photo of alexandra
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What a truly spectacularly beautiful idea.  Just breathtaking.  Hat is off.  Hope we can find a way to support you, and this.  

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Thank you... 

Photo of Silvi Alcivar
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love this! powerful and affecting. truly a way to call in healing and community and bridge between beauty and the unknown. 

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Thanks, Silvi Alcivar ...

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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    Hi Ned.  Great idea! I like the idea of working with people overtime.  Have you considered working with the patients to facilitate their own songwriting in addition to the artists writing songs for them, about them?   When I read your post I was reminded of the work that Carnegie Hall does in communities in which many do not have access to music.  -   “Musical Connections”   -   I am familiar with their work within the juvenile justice system in NYC.  I am a physician and have been working within this system.  Musicians from Carnegie Hall come in over a period of time each year to do songwriting workshops with the youth. At the end there is a show.  Each young artist performs.  I have had the opportunity to be in the audience, and wow!
    I spoke to one of the musicians last year and she shared that they do other community projects. I checked the website. Two other projects are: working with elderly in senior housing, and working with patients in the healthcare system.   Not end of life per se but there might be things to learn from this model?
    I skimmed the Handbook, (last link below) and learned a bit about the program structure.  Artists are contracted, and there is a professional development component.  I read on one of the links that the program is collaborating with other organizations across the country,  some in California.

http://www.carnegiehall.org/Education/Musical-Connections/

Working with the elderly in senior housing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaQsi8lLGMQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0leBnc08vM

Working within Jacobi Hospital, Bronx, New York
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R3CRiADG-w

Handbook
https://www.carnegiehall.org/uploadedFiles/Resources_and_Components/PDF/WMI
/Resources_Musical%20Connections_Handbook.pdf

   I like your thoughts on maybe including visual arts in the program.  Drawing with music, using rhythm  to inform mark making is a lot of fun.  Maybe combine both artistic expressions sometimes as well?

Looking forward to watching this develop!

Photo of Ned Buskirk
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Bettina Fliegel I'm overwhelmed by the wealth of possibility in your reply!!! Wow. Watching the Carnegie Hall video on their website right now for the young prisoners making music. I'm imagining what you said, about patients actually producing their own music... how wonderful would that be. I think this program could have no limit to how creative expression might look - whether it's the artist sharing a song about their patient or a patient wanting to write a song about themselves or their life or a community of family & friends being involved it what's created - the possibilities are & should be limitless. Thank you so much for your reply...

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Hi Ned.  I am happy you are overwhelmed, but in a good way!  Yes there are many possibilities!  I think the Carnegie Hall Project as a model is great because it is already in place and they have considered so many of the questions you have posed here - particularly about professional training to work in these settings, artist reimbursement etc.   Plus their work which is represented on the videos is inspiring!  The youth that I have seen in the shows in the detention centers are glowing with pride at their accomplishments and they love the program.   

Thinking about this as a program, have you thought about working in assisted living communities?  Have a look at the video that Jim posted speaking with his father, Leon.   (linked below)  Leon remarks that there are often a few deaths a week in his community.  Unlike hospice the individuals in the community are not living knowing that death is imminent for themselves, yet death is happening regularly.   It is a very different atmosphere.  Might it be exciting to collaborate with a senior community, or assisted living community to do workshops?  Because the community members are in a different life stage vs. a hospice it can be a different experience for all involved.  What do you think?

https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/research/first-person-leon-rosenberg-81-on-death-as-a-practical-concern/comments#!c-a9c394bfc05b9f226a7d8b7a5251880b

Have you considered partnering with sponsors for financial support?

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Definitely, Bettina Fliegel ... I have considered that. Lots of options, which is good at this early stage, & very grateful for such supportive feedback. Thank you again... I like the assisted living communities as one of the many places where a project like this could have a positive impact. As it happens, I'm reading Being Mortal right now & my headspace is right in that arena. 

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Hey Ned Buskirk really love this idea. I was a music writer in the USA and Europe for a while, and I was sharing your idea with a writer at the SF Chronicle / SF Gate. She said if you ever got to the point of having a concrete story of connecting a musician and a patient, she might be interested in finding a writer to craft a piece about it. This could be really inspiring for so many people, and it's such a great idea. Just wanted to let you know as an extra incentive if you're deciding whether to take your idea to action, and manifest it into a functioning project in the Bay Area.

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Scott Shigeoka ! I love how your incentive offering helps me imagine how powerful a story could be of a musician & a patient, both people that exist out in the world right now, paired together to inspire others, all in the context of end-of-life. Thank you for the note & for thinking to share this idea with someone else...

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Ned Buskirk ! My goodness. What a beautiful and well constructed idea. And to know that so many other musicians are on board with this - how remarkable. I feel optimist about this project - it really seems like it's something that could be realistically implemented into a hospital setting. I would like to personally hire you to play songs for me during my dying process!

Perhaps some things to consider - (Coming from a nursing/healthcare perspective here) You had mentioned volunteer training. I think this is a wonderful idea. There are end-of-life doula and volunteer programs that the musicians could potentially take (these vary in the duration of the program). I know when we have music therapy at the hospital, not all of the musicians are volunteer or hospice trained, but I really think they would benefit from it. Also, if the musicians are sharing such intimate conversation and developing relationships with these dying individuals, it's important to keep in mind that the musicians should have extra support and care available to them. Spending time with this particular population of people can be quite emotionally challenging. That would be something to consider.

This is such a great idea! Thank you for sharing, and I hope to see more come of it as I think it would be so beneficial for our patients and individuals going through the end of life experience. 

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Morgan Meinel Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply. I love your reminder that the involvement required, the investment emotionally, must be accounted for... I imagine a training program like the one Zen Hospice Project has... Ideally to get funding to pay for training or build it into the project, as I mention in the details, that the live shows featuring these artists & their original songs for the patient would raise money to go back to the Hospice programs for offering training.

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Ned Buskirk what a remarkable approach! - the live shows featuring the artists (with their original songs) and the raised money going back into the hospice programs offering training. I really like that idea; it's completely realistic and offers a beautiful cycle of reciprocity amongst the musicians and patients.

I really look forward to seeing how your beautiful idea manifests! All the best :) 

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Thanks, Morgan Meinel !

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 What an amazing and inspirational idea!
I hope this one wins.

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Thanks, Don Reznicek ...

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Wow, I am so excited about this possibility as a musician. I've had the call for awhile now to sing to dying people and I've been patiently paying attention to how this might weave into my life in a way that feels natural and functional for me, as working parent of a toddler.  I had the incredible honor of singing for my grandpa as he died a few years ago, and when I reflect on that day, I think it might be the most I mportant thing I've done in my life thus far (or at least on par with giving birth!)  It's a strange feeling.  It just surpassed all previous moments of meaningfulness in my musical offerings.  Death is a sacred time that has been pushed to the  shadows of our culture, behind doors, away from the living.  It doesn't need to be that way.  Death is a part of all of us.  I'm so happy to be a part of this movement toward honoring the dying time of a persons life. 

An important structural aspect of this idea for me, is that musicians, artists, poets can participate in a way that is sustainable for them and their families. It is a joy to volunteer, and it is also not realistic for a lot of artists who have so much to offer. If set up as a non-profit, this organization could raise funds form a variety of sources to cover compensation for artists.  

Wow. Again, I'm just so excited about this! It is an answer to a very real need in our community. 

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Chelsea Coleman ! Thanks for your meaningful comment. You remind me of the power art can hold to enliven the end of life, to bring the valuable power of this moment to the forefront for all of us. Also, I'm fully committed to this somehow helping artists' sustainability. Through & through. Non-profit!

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Very interesting idea Ned and that resonates that a couple of research posts.
You might want to check this story: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/research/when-everyone-stops-to-care-for-a-sick-teenager
and this one too: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/research/music-and-loss
It's great to see that you can even do a light prototype.
I'm also wondering if you could not look at other models such as organizations organizing events / activities for children in hospitals. Check for example: http://childrensnational.org/choose-childrens/deciding-on-care/support-for-families/clown-care
and http://onlymakebelieve.org/what/
I assume that they might have some answers to your questions.
Looking forward to reading about the prototype!

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Thanks, Anne-Laure Fayard ... You might have noticed that Alyssa Frances Thompson post Music and Loss partly inspired this idea. I checked out When Everyone Stops to Care for a Sick Teenager & cried reading this story. Wonderful. Thanks for furthering the reminder that this project could happen by showing me where other versions of it are already happening in the world. And the shift of focus to children, the power a musical moment could have for kids, really hit me... 

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Hi Ned,

I really like this idea and how it celebrates and normalizes even as it grieves.
One of the strong points to me is the human interaction aspect. Dying sets one apart and the core of your idea seems to be reintegrating that person. 
Seeing as getting enough volunteer time is a key barrier, is there a way to extend the core idea of human interaction to other modalities aside from music while still using the basic approach you developed with music? That might open the resource pool considerably.

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Chris Lee ... I've been thinking a lot about this in the days since I've posted it. Why confine the project to just music? Maybe all types of artists, like the many artists I know running my live event series, could bring their talents into this project. Writers, musicians, painters, drawers, etc. Great feedback - thanks! For example, something like Claudia Biçen 's project Thoughts in Passing. 

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Hi Ned.

Thanks for the link to Claudia Biçen 's inspiration. That was a great example. 

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an incredible idea with such powerful possibilities for those at the end of life. music holds so much potential and maintains a person's creativity at a time when it can be difficult to imagine doing, as well as a sense of shared experience that only making and listening to music together can foster. love this idea.

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Thanks, Ali Sperling ... 

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This idea sounds really great! Just earlier today I read some report on the neuroscience behind drumming and being exposed to music, it includes a video in the end which mentions that an alzheimer patient was able to remember names when being exposed to music:  
http://iheartintelligence.com/2015/12/23/neuroscience-drummers/
I immediately had to think of this and think maybe this is another aspect to consider: How can music help to ease pain and improve cognitive function with people that are suffering from diseases in the end of their life? 
It would be greatif this idea could be connected with people that are doing research/ projects in this area.

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Love this thought, Maike Gericke ... You remind me that there's a lot of research worth doing to see what kinds of music hold the dying, & their particular ailments, most adequately. Thanks for sharing the link, too.

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What a beautiful gift to the world this would be.  I can't imagine a better way to spend my last moments, or to honor my loved ones.  The world needs this.

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Thanks, James D'Albora ... Agreed.

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This is powerful and meaningful. I love the idea of transitioning into death accompanied by music. 

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I agree, Danny Scuderi ... Personally, as often as I listen to music now, I imagine wanting my favorite sounds holding my soul in the last moments I have left to hear...

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Brilliant. I love how this concept fosters soulful expression around death and grief. What an intimate gift and honor for the dying and their loved ones.  

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Hi Des :) Great to see you in here and thanks for leaving such thoughtful feedback. I agree that this idea creates a beautiful depiction of how our last moments might be spent. And, I love the idea of this idea being able to be easily tested and quickly learned from. Excited for what's the come...

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Thanks, Desiree Lyons & Joanna Spoth ...

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I love this idea, Ned, especially the composing of songs specifically for patients. Volunteers and music therapists bringing music to patients are out there, but I've always thought there's potential to do so much more. Are you familiar with the Threshold Choir? They sing by the bedside of patients "at the threshold." The founder of the organization once talked about singing to the dying as being an instinctive and ancient practice, that just like mothers (and fathers) sing lullabies to their babies, we have an instinct to soothe the dying with song. I've felt that in my own work with dying patients (and with my own mom). Often when it's no longer possible -- or it becomes very difficult -- for patients to talk or move much, they can listen and be comforted by music. Look forward to seeing where this goes.

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Thanks for this note. SEVERAL people have contacted me since this post about the Threshold Choir & I'd heard about them before. One of their members & I just got in touch because of this alignment, so the connection has been made! Thanks for mentioning them... Can you share a little more about how music was involved with the loss of your mother? And I'm sorry... I hope you're in a part of your life where the pain & suffering does not overshadow the growth that comes with such a significant loss. 

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I'm intrigued. What about loved ones who want to get involved, but don't have musical talent? What would be a concrete way they could contribute? Would musicians be willing to work for free? I find it hard for people to willingly volunteer their time, so I would worry that musicians would commit but then bail when life gets busy. Thought provoking and inspiring.

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Great questions, Lacy Telles-Hairstylist ... I think the family & friends could be involved in sharing with the musician about their loved ones, but depending on the artist, there could be no limit to what inspired piece gets produced & how everyone is involved [i.e. including audio of people talking about their loved ones, edited into the music]. As a hospice volunteer, I think the potential for people to give freely of their time is there, but agree that it's a big commitment. Ideally, I'd like to see this program not only be put in place to support the dying & deceased, but also the artist communities, too. Thanks for your input!

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Yes. This.

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Ned, this is an amazing idea! Have you already done anything like this through your YG2D events? I'm glad to see you're building on Brad's Sara's Got A Sunbeam . Brad Wolfe would definitely be interested in helping you make this happen!

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Thanks, Shane Zhao ... I haven't yet taken this on yet. In fact, this OpenIDEO re-imagining is helping me explore compelling ideas I've thought on for sometime. Being in this conversation is helping me explore YG2D's potential as not only a movement sourcing death to inspire life, but as a resourceful community available to help impact end-of-life.

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Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

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Magnificent!!! Before my dad died, the owner of my favorite music shop told me, "son, it will be one of the honors of your life to play music for your father on his death bed." He was so right, and I want everyone to have music filling the air when they die, creating a place for the feelings to go and be held. Beautiful vision, Ned. 

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Love this, Scott. You're one of the musicians who comes to mind with the dynamic ability, artistically, emotionally, spiritually, to inspire this undertaking. Would love to talk more & involve you ASAP.