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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?


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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 - http://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 [http://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

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