“Music is this wonderful tool that can change and shape your day, your mood, your memories. Because of those reasons, there was no choice but to bring music to people that need it most.” Michael Solomon, Co-Founder of Musicians On Call
In 1999, Musicians On Call Co-Founders and music & entertainment entrepreneurs, Michael Solomon and Vivek Tiwary, bonded over one life-changing moment: both had loved ones who had passed away after long hospital stays in New York.
Michael had recently lost 21-year-old Kristen Ann Carr after her battle with sarcoma. To honor her memory, friends and family including Michael and Kristen’s parents, Dave Marsh and Barbara Carr, formed the Kristen Ann Carr Fund at her request to provide grants for cancer research seeking to improve all aspects of cancer patient life with an emphasis on adolescents and young adults.
In an effort to give back to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where Kristen was hospitalized, Barbara and the Kristen Ann Carr Fund hosted a concert for the patients with the help of Michael. In support of his friend Michael, Vivek attended the concert in search of healing after recently losing both his parents to cancer, who happened to be huge music fans.
Nurses carefully transported patients to the hospital’s recreation area, arranging seats and wheelchairs around a temporary stage where Wynton Marsalis, internationally acclaimed musician, played in the common area at one of the units. IV poles were present throughout the audience, their bags forming a mezzanine audience overhead. It was just what the patients needed, one of the nurses said, and such a shame that some were unable to attend because they were in treatment or too sick to leave their rooms. It was clear that some of the patients who needed music most were unable to go to the concert.
Michael and Vivek immediately reached out to musician clients and friends to set up similar concerts, and musician Kenli Mattus gladly stepped up. After a couple of visits performing in the common areas, they were asked to visit some patients in their rooms who were too sick to come to the common areas. What they witnessed in the rooms that night was magic!
Feet began to tap and heads nodded to the beat. Smiles formed on patients’ faces and some closed their eyes in revelry. His music was like a melodious breeze moving throughout the room; joyful notes drifted through the air before settling comfortably on the souls of his audience. What happened in the rec room happened on an even deeper and more intimate level inside the actual hospital room. Michael and Vivek knew they had to form an organization that could bring the same inspiration to the bedsides of patients in hospitals everywhere.
Vivek coordinated with Memorial Sloan Kettering to create the foundation for its first regular Bedside Performance Program. Michael worked with the Kristen Ann Carr Fund to engage music industry friends and colleagues, most notably Bruce Springsteen, as fundraising champions. Thanks to Kristen Ann Carr’s mother, Barbara Carr, who is Bruce Springsteen’s manager, Bruce supported Musicians On Call’s first auction and event to raise funds to start the organization and thus, Michael and Vivek’s vision became a reality.
Nearly two decades later, Musicians On Call continues to partner with its sister organization, the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, and has grown from its first program at Memorial Sloan Kettering to over 60 regular programs and performing for half a million patients, families and caregivers nationwide.