Never underestimate the healing power of music, even if it only lasts for a brief moment. Songs can uplift our moods and move us through difficult times. The gift of music can be so powerful, it can transport us to a different place, entirely.
Music can also bring people together. It may also bring solace to friends and families of loved ones who are terminally ill. Swan Songs, a local nonprofit in Austin, is striving to accomplish just that, and the process is simpler than you might expect.
How Swan Songs Began
Musician Christine Albert, founder and president of Swan Songs, has been part of the local Austin music scene for many years. When she was asked to sing for a dying friend, she realized what a moving experience it was. Not only for her, but for her friend and family members, as well.
Albert wondered whether there were others in the Austin community who would benefit from musical performances in their final days. A city like Austin, where live music and local musicians are treasured, seemed like a great place to start the initiative. In 2005, Albert took a leap of faith and Swan Songs was born.
Swan Songs was very informal, at first, but it has been steadily growing. This past year, Swan Songs received approximately 245 requests for musical performance. According to Albert, there has not been a request the organization has been unable to fill.
Specific requests have been made, including for heavy metal, Japanese music, Lithuanian accordion, and the ever popular mariachi music. When a request comes in, Swan Songs searches for a musician to fulfill it.
What to Expect
A concert through Swan Songs is an intimate experience. It’s recommended that the patient is still in a comfortable state, so the event does not create added stress. The concert typically takes place at a residence or care facility that has a level of care to keep the patient comfortable. The musician or musicians, up to a quartet, will play acoustically or unplugged. Most concerts last between 30 and 45 minutes.
How Do I Request a Concert?
Swan Songs makes the process of requesting a concert as easy as possible for the patient and family. You can access the request form on the organization website, which is linked below. Once the form is submitted, the family will be contacted and a musician will be found to perform.
Swan Songs wants to stress how easy the process is, and that it is not at all cumbersome. Since Albert and her team realize how overwhelmed a family can be during their difficult time, Swan Songs takes the load off so they too can enjoy the gift of music.
What Can I Do to Help?
Swan Songs works with local musicians, but concerts are free of charge to patients and their families. The organization is funded by donations and there are several events throughout the year to help with fundraising. Some of the events include:
- Swan Song Serenade – Annual event that includes live and silent auctions, seated dinner, and concert benefiting Swan Songs.
- Remember & Reflect – Memorial gathering to remember those who participated in Swan Songs and have since passed.
- AMP UP for Swan Songs – Swan Songs takes part in Amplify Austin, the community-wide day of online giving.
Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated. The organization has moved into an office space and is seeking administrative help. Volunteers are also needed during Swan Songs Serenade and other events. Individuals may also help by acting as a liaison at the concert, facilitating between the patient, musician, family members, and caregivers.
Future of Swan Songs
While Swan Songs has been requested to perform in other venues, such as nursing homes, the nonprofit is committed to keeping its focus as an end of life program. The organization’s vision includes creating a way for other communities to start their own Swan Songs programs.
To learn more about Swan Songs, how to request a concert, and volunteer opportunities, visit its website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
If you were to design a concert for a loved one, what would it be like?
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