Meet Colette Hawley, our featured volunteer from Chicago!
Get to know our volunteers!
Do you volunteer at a specific hospital? I volunteer at Chicago Methodist Senior Services
How long have you been volunteering with Musicians On Call? 3 Months
Are you a Volunteer Guide or Volunteer Musician? Musician
What is your favorite song to play for patients? There are many. At CMSS, because of the age of patients, I’ll go with classic old standards like “All of Me,” “Route 66,” and “ Embraceable You.”
Have you ever been part of an impromptu jam session with patients or family in a hospital room? Absolutely. When the patient and the family hear me start on of these old tunes, it’s often recognized immediately. So then we get singing along, clapping along and what I call “hand dancing”; dancing that involves waving the hands and arms in a joyful rhythmic fashion while confined to a bed or wheelchair. It’s SO ENLIVENING for all.
Do you perform anywhere else besides with MOC? Yes. Currently, my passion in life is to sing for people with Alzheimer’s. Just like when MOC sings to patients at their bedside, singing to people with Alzheimer’s is profoundly transformative.
What is your occupation outside of MOC? I not only sing for Alzheimer’s folks, I sing at assisted Livings, Senior Centers, Private Parties. I am also a caregiver for a delightful array of elders and also pets!
Do you have any hidden talents? I think I have a talent for fashion/ styling. Wherever I perform, from a hospital with MOC to a country club ladies luncheon, I ALWAYS wear a colorful gown with lots of sparkly accessories. Walking into a place like CMSS dressed up like that, it seems, takes people by surprise. Their faces light up. They say, “ OH WOW!” I feel that each and every soul I perform for deserves the whole show.
Hospitals and nursing homes can be visually challenging- not a lot of colorful beauty to take in. And at CMSS, when the patients realize I am dressing up just for them…it makes them feel very special. And they are very special, indeed.
What is your story? What connects you with music and why do you volunteer with MOC? I have been a professional Singer for most of my adult life. I started in Chicago
and then continued in New York City. My voice was an inexplicable gift; not one single person in my family , past or present, has a shred of musical talent of any kind. I simply opened my mouth and it was there. So, when out of nowhere, I began to lose my singing voice- bit by bit – no explanation… I was devastated.
I had to admit the loss and do something else. I did comedy in NYC. I actually did incredibly well, won awards, was on Comedy Central multiple times. BUT , it was never the same. Comedy is my head. Singing is my Heart.
I got depressed, divorced my husband and left NYC for good.
I ended up in California. I was looking for a fresh start.
I began working with residents at a Memory Care in Costa Mesa. I loved it.
I spent as much time as I could with them.
I had a couple low notes left in my range, so one day, I sang them a song.
When I saw how- even with the limitations of my voice at that time- how impactful and transformative the music was, I was hooked.
I sang more and more for them.
And here’s the magic; the more I sang for them, the more my voice came back until it came all the way back and then some.
So I took that as a sign; my voice now has a purpose: to bring joy, lift spirits, make connections to anyone anywhere that needs it.
Obviously, MOC is a perfect piece of my puzzle.
What makes MOC different from your other volunteer experiences? Musicians On Call is THE BEST. They are upbeat, positive, organized, respectful, fun AND they treat their volunteers incredibly well. In my volunteer experiences thus far, no one comes close to the class and professionalism of MOC.
Has your life changed because of your experience with MOC? Yes. In many ways. The experiences that I have had at CMSS have been profoundly moving. Pure magic. It is fulfilling beyond words. And actually MOC has changed my view of volunteering overall. I have had some not so great times with other NFP’s. I was getting a little soured on it all. Then came MOC- and quite frankly- I am deeply moved and honored by this moment of being singled out and thanked. I know it may seem like no big deal to some- but it’s a really big great deal to me
What is your favorite #MOCmoment? The very first time at MOC, the very first room I went into- it was an elderly woman, she spoke little English, but the moment I started singing ALL OF ME her face lit up! She sat up in her bed and started waving her hands back and forth- I stood at the end of her bed and playfully mirrored her movements as I sang. We were both smiling from ear to ear. After the song ended, I said good bye and went out into the hallway to join my guide and several staff members who had watched. They were crying tears of joy. They couldn’t believe the ‘dancing’ that the woman and I did. It was so sweet. But I smiled to myself, knowing the dance they all saw from the hallway was one thing, but for the patient and I …. it was the dance that was happening while we looked into each other’s eyes. It was the most exquisitely profound dance. A dance with constraints of time or space. It was the dance of our souls together.
I am sure I sound nuts- but really- that’s what happens. ❤ At the end of my song to the lady, she pointed to her heart, looked at me and said with her heavy accent;
“You have god here.”
I was really struck by that.