Meet Zach Williams, Our Featured Volunteer from NYC!

25 Feb

Meet Zach Williams, Our Featured Volunteer from NYC!

Get to know our volunteers!

Do you volunteer at a specific hospital? I bounce around based on availability

How long have you been volunteering with Musicians On Call? My first hospital was 8/15/18

Are you a volunteer guide or musician? Musician

What is your favorite song to play for patients? My go to MOC approved song is “Stand by Me”. Whether it’s the first song I play or when no one can make up their mind on picking a song. Other than that, I prefer playing songs people request out of the blue. A recent one was a 90-year-old woman who lost her husband within the last few years. His favorite song was “What a Wonderful World”. After I played it she ended up telling me lots of stories about him (from his sunny disposition to how he handled robberies while working at banks) and before I left trying to set me up with her granddaughter. It also always surprises me when New Yorkers want to hear some old country songs by- Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, and Hank Williams Sr to name a few. The songs played are just half of the equation. The stories that people share ABOUT the song they requested is always so much better than the song itself.

Have you been a part of an impromptu jam session? No jam sessions with other instruments but many people do like to sing along. My favorite was when I went home to Tennessee for Thanksgiving. I reached out to the Nashville coordinator and worked out some time slots for me to play in Nashville. This one room was filled with several generations of family who, I assume, have been singing together since birth. They requested several gospel songs and immediately jumped in singing and arranging the harmony parts. We could have left the hospital after that and headed down to Broadway and made quite the living just busking.

Do you perform anywhere else besides MOC? I have a bluegrass band that performs as time/life permits. We have played Rockwood, restaurants, art galleries, bars, and a music festival in New Jersey. I also play at a lot of bluegrass jams and open mics around the city. Irish Whiskey Bar, Branded Saloon, Quays Pub, Strong Rope Brewery, Mona’s, Zinc Bar, Sunny’s Bar, Little Skips, Center at West park, Bar Chord, and Mirror Tea House all host jams or open mics throughout the week at varying times where I can be found picking and singing.

What is your occupation outside of MOC? I design residential and commercial buildings for a prefab component manufacturer. Think of the kit homes that people could order from the Sears Catalog from 1908-1940. That’s what I do except it is completely custom. I design the floor system, walls, and roof trusses. We then cut/assemble them in the shop and ship to the job site to be assembled like a very large and expensive puzzle.

Do you have any hidden talents? A hidden talent to most of my friends is that I am pretty good at hand embroidery. A hidden talent for most of my MOC friends is that I used to be a cowboy reenactor. I would dress in authentic 1880 cowboy attire and educate kids on field trips mostly. I would do gun spinning, trick roping, cowboy fast draw, some light blacksmithing and I made my own 10ft bull whip for trick cracking. Something that always surprises people more than the cowboy part is during that time I managed a preschool gymnastics program of about 350 kids ranging in age from 18 months to 6 years.

What is your story? What connects you with music and why do you volunteer with MOC? My family is mostly from Tennessee/Alabama and reads almost like a country song. My grandpa was a coal miner that turned a Southern Baptist preacher. My grandma raised 6 children while picking cotton and working in textile factories. So obviously when a child was old enough to hold an instrument they got to join the family gospel band. Music runs deep in my family and the part of the world I grew up in. I’ve been playing music since about 2000. It started with trombone, moved to bass, and then to guitar by 2006. Now I’m playing guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, drums, and keys. If it has strings I can probably figure it out. I volunteer at MOC for many reasons. I work from home and this gives me a great reason to get out of the house, practice new material, meet new people, and it leave a lasting impact on those in the hospital and my friends out of the hospital. Many times people think they are too busy with the day to day to volunteer, but everyone can carve a few hours out of their month if they are passionate about it.

What makes MOC different from your other volunteer experiences? MOC is different because you are directly impacting people AND you can see the effects immediately. I’ve rebuilt houses, cleaned yards, prepared food, helped after Katrina and local tornadoes, picked up garbage, river clean ups, you name it and there is a chance I’ve tried it. With most of those I very well know that I am doing a good thing, or helping those that need it but you’re typically not seeing the smiles it puts on peoples faces. When I finish playing a song someone requested, crack a joke, or just have a regular conversation with them you can see the change in mood happen right before your eyes. I’d say most of the people aren’t having a great time being stuck in a room but hopefully they will look back and remember this 5-10 minutes as a highlight of their time at the hospital.

Has your life changed because of your experience with MOC? It has really helped solidify the power of music. I can play bluegrass music till my ears bleed and not think twice about it. When you are immersed in music it is easy to take it for granted. But playing one-on-one concerts bedside at hospitals shows that the simplest song can help a person get through some tough times with a smile and thinking of fond memories.

What is your favorite #MOCmoment? Getting proposed to twice in the same night by some grandmas for their wonderful granddaughters who are “looking to get married soon”

Do you want to help us deliver the healing power of music? Apply to volunteer as a guide or a musician today!

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