Playing by Heart


Local musician makes connections with patients that go beyond words.

Spirituality and music have always played large roles in Lynn Wetherbee’s life. Her love affair with the harp began when she was 10 years old and a spiritual calling later in life made her an interfaith hospital chaplain.

It’s only when she began her career at Visiting Nurses Association on Henry Avenue as a therapeutic musician that she realized how powerful the combination of her ministry and her musical talents could be in providing spiritual comfort to the sick.

She shared some of her insights when we caught up with her recently. “Music allows you to make a deep connection,” she said. “There are times when patients are experiencing something so difficult, it goes beyond words — music can reach those places.”

Whether it’s light classical, jazz, Celtic, folk, The Beatles, or improvising, the music Lynn plays is always for one goal – to connect with a person and be present, which is part of her spiritual training. “I call it a ministry of presence through music.”

How does she know when she’s arrived at that place? “When I start off it’s a leap of faith because you don’t know how a person will respond when you walk into their room. You don’t know their history or what they’re going through. But you know you’re reaching a good place when a person taps their toes, or moves their fingers. Sometimes they’ll even tear up or bring up a memory associated with a song – that’s when I really feel energized and connected.”

Sometimes the benefits go beyond just the musician and the patient. “Just today I was playing and a caregiver began to sing along. She told me afterwards she really needed that. Our caregivers work very hard and it’s so gratifying when I can make their day a little easier.”

When I say it can’t be easy for her lugging a giant harp from room to room she laughs. “That’s a concert grand harp you’re thinking of. I could never lug something that big around the facility. I usually play on a Celtic harp (or lever harp). It weighs 25 pounds, has 32 strings and has wheels on it as well as a travel case — so I can carry it pretty easily.”

Any other harps? “Yes, I also have a lap harp, which is only 4 pounds. It has fewer strings and is a lot quieter because there’s less wood, which means less amplification. It’s suitable for a room and is more intimate as well. I can get closer to a patient with a lap harp than a Celtic one. Either way, it’s the connection that counts.”

Find out more about Lynn at

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