Meet Tracy Ann Bancroft, Our Featured Volunteer from Philadelphia!
Get to know our volunteers!
Do you volunteer at a specific hospital? I volunteer at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
How long have you been volunteering with Musicians On Call? 14.5 years
Are you a volunteer guide or musician? Guide
Do you have any hidden talents? One thing most people don’t know about me is that when I have time, I enjoy crocheting blankets. I especially like to do difficult patterns and I like to give them as milestone-type gifts. Usually I make baby blankets or throw blankets for friends who just got engaged or bought a new home. This year I hope to complete a few that have been lying dormant since I’ve had kids.
Another hidden talent-or gem-per se, is that almost 20 years ago I was lucky enough to briefly study opera with a woman who was a Holocaust survivor. She sang with the Vienna Opera and had to flee Austria during World War II because she was Jewish. I’m not an opera singer, but I did enjoy the challenge of learning from her.
What is your story? What connects you with music and why do you volunteer with MOC? My story! Oh wow, that’s not an easy answer. First, I grew up in music in my church. My Grandfather was a musician and my Aunt directed the kids choir. My Mom and my Aunt sang in the church choir and also played in the handbell choir. Naturally, music was a big part of my life. I sang in the church and school choirs, played clarinet for 6 years and had the lead in several high school plays and musicals. I was also honored with earning a spot in both All South Jersey Chorus and All South Jersey Band…way back in the 1980s. So there’s a brief snippet of the music part.
Now here’s why I was drawn to Musicians On Call. As a teenager, I was a patient at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I had five surgeries in two and a half years to remove and repair tumors on my lower left leg. My surgeon told me I was lucky they didn’t just amputate because what I had was really rare. Long story short, I got to meet Willie Mays at CHOP. And so did my Dad. The experience of meeting Mr. Mays was so special to me, it’s something I will never forget. I still have his signed baseball!
When I ran across a video online about Musicians On Call back in 2004, I knew it was something I had to be a part of. It spoke to me. My love of music, my experience as a patient and (at the time) I was employed as a pharmaceutical sales representative in north Jersey and New York City, so these 3 things made me think, “HEY, I should be doing this!” I realized being a guide would probably fit best, as my piano skills are only for practicing with my voice and not for public consumption.
Now fast forward almost 15 years and I’m still excited to volunteer with MOC. Music speaks a different language. It’s a universal language and is a language that heals. It touches every single cell of the body in a way nothing else can do. I see it and I call it grace entering the room. The music softens stress lines on a patient’s face. It brightens the light in their eyes. It gets toes tapping and changes the energy in the air. It is truly magical to witness.
What makes MOC different from your other volunteer experiences? MOC is part of me now. I can’t see myself not volunteering with MOC. When I took some time off to give birth twice and then to revaccinate, I craved it. I had to get back to my people at Jefferson to share the music. Volunteering with MOC is different from other volunteer experiences because bringing music to patients in a hospital is real and raw and beyond rewarding.
Has you live changed because of your experience with Musicians On Call? I think so, yes! I know amazing musicians and other volunteers that I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for MOC. Some have become my friends and I value and cherish that.
What is your favorite #MOCmoment? I have been with Musicians On Call for a very long time. To nail down one moment as my favorite, has been a difficult thing to do. But I have to say probably the first year I was with MOC, it happened in New York City at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. It was either late 2004 or early 2005. I walked into a dimly lit, double room on the oncology unit in the hospital. The first patient I encountered was a weathered older man who told me he didn’t really care if my musician played for him or not. Unfazed, because I get being in a hospital isn’t very fun, I asked if I could ask his roommate and the man shook his head to say okay. What happened next I can remember clear as if it happened yesterday.
Me: (finishing my scripted MOC introduction)…Would you like to hear a song?
Now this second man seemed even more weathered, with a slight anger in his being. He looked at me as if to say are-you-crazy-girl and what-are-you-doing-here and get-out all at once. He actually said:
Man in Bed 2: Ohhhhhh I’m headed to the graveyard! Why the hell would somebody want to play music for me?
Now I’m not unfazed, in fact I was very taken aback by what he said. I honestly don’t know how the words came out because I couldn’t think fast enough, or maybe it was good I didn’t really think. I reacted with this:
Me: Oh my…well you’re here right now! So I think the graveyard isn’t ready for you just yet, ok? And my friend Morley has a beautiful voice and I think you’ll love her.
With that, the gruff old man softened a bit. I think he actually grumbled this at me:
Man in Bed 2: Alright, alright! But she better be good!!
And before I could prepare my friend Morley with a heads up or anything, she walked right in ready to sing and play her guitar. I think I held my breathe because I remember feeling a little dizzy and nervous at what would or could transpire.
The song she sang was her own and it was probably the most perfect situational song choice ever. It’s called “My Bed Is By The Sea.” The words still embrace my memories today.