One of the highest-ranking pediatric hospitals in the United States is the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Commonly known as Children's Hospital, the center is recognized as a leader in scientific research and rehabilitation. One of the hospital's most innovative programs brings live music and entertainment to its young patients.
Recently some of the kids gathered to listen to music by the Duke Ellington School for the Arts' Jazz Orchestra, introduced by the legendary musician and entrepreneur, Quincy Jones.
It wasn't your typical group of jazz enthusiasts who recently gathered for a free concert in the atrium at Children's Hospital. Kids of all ages sat in their bathrobes and slippers, some were in wheelchairs, some were hooked up to IVs, and few were aware of the legacy of the friendly middle-aged man introducing the musicians onstage. But they were no less mesmerized as jazz icon Quincy Jones spoke words of inspiration and music filled the room.
"If you can see it, you can be it! I love you! Thank you," he said.
When asked what brought him to Children's Hospital, he said, "Number one, my friend, [businessman/philanthropist] Joe E. Robert who is very passionate about this project and has been telling me a long time about it and this hospital. This was one of the first stops we made."
Quincy Jones speaking of the new arts program at Children's Hospital that brings music, dance and art to patients as part of their rehabilitation. Director of the program Terri Orzakowski says Children's Hospital also provides resident artists, musicians, dancers and writers who work with children at bedside.
"...and then display their work or write newsletters so they can see what it's like to have it published," she said. "What also happens is we do a huge performance in the atrium. We'll bring the ballet or the circus or other artists. And the beauty of Quincy Jones is not only what he represents in his enormous talent but he himself requested that a rapper be here because he knew that would entice the kids too." Quincy Jones' role at the Children's Hospital Concert was twofold: Not only does he support the hospital's arts program, but he says he also enjoys helping to open doors for aspiring young artists in a business that is increasingly competitive.
"It's always been hard. Because there's so much media now, there's so much exposure when you come up with a record," he said. "And music is the only business where the product is consumed before it's purchased. You give it away on radio, on BET [Black Entertainment Television] or MTV and people have to be emotionally connected enough to want to go out and purchase it. And that's a very tall order."
But for hospital Arts Director Terri Orzakowski, Quincy Jones already filled a tall order by appearing before the group of young patients, some of whom have never seen a professional live musical performance before.
"This is a thrill. It's just unbelievable for a lot of our families, and of course, even more so if they're here for a long time," she said. "And music and the arts are universal. They help the children heal, they help families connect, it helps children express things they ordinarily would not be able to. And beyond all that, it also allows them to kind of transcend the pain which many of them have in large degree."
Music and theatrical performances are a continuing presence in the atrium of Children's Hospital, which also includes arts and craft fairs and computer demonstrations.
In a similar vein, Quincy Jones is working with his foundation, "Listen Up," whose goals are to help needy children break the cycle of poverty and violence by connecting them with education, technology and culture. Mr. Jones is currently working with South African president Thabo M'beke and Nelson Mandela to bring computer literacy and access to the young people of South Africa.