Meet our Nashville Volunteer 2019 Honorees, Matt Vrba and Maria Berry
With a performance from Blake Shelton and honoring some of Nashville’s finest, 20th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration Presented By Pepsi is gearing up to be one rocking night! As excitement for the event builts, we wanted to take a moment to highlight our two volunteer honorees and share their impact on the healing power of music.
We are proud to honor Volunteer Musician Matt Vrba and Volunteer Guide Maria Berry. Matt has been bringing his music to Nashville patients since 2011, and Maria is celebrating five years as a Volunteer Guide. Together, they have delivered the healing power of music to nearly 5,000 patients, caregivers and families with Musicians On Call!
We asked them a few questions about their experience volunteering for Musicians On Call, so you can get to know Matt and Maria a little more.
Why do you volunteer for Musicians On Call?
Matt: When I first heard about Musicians On Call my initial reaction was, “Genius. How has no one thought of this? Why is this not a thing everywhere?” It was the first time I had actually heard of a situation where music could have a tangible, immediate impact. I had had a few minor surgeries at that point, and I immediately harkened back to my stays (albeit short) in the hospital. Bored. Lonely. Depressed. The first three words that come to mind. MOC is that perfect rare arrangement in life where everyone is happy and grateful with the outcome. I know it has been said by all of us (volunteers), but 11 years later it still rings true every time. The volunteers get just as much out of this program as the patients.
Maria: Music has always been a source of comfort and healing for me. When I am with a musician in a patient’s room, it feels like we are part of what they are experiencing. When we can elicit a smile from a child or have a sing-a-long with a patient or lull a fussy baby to sleep, I know that we are contributing to their healing-or maybe we are just brightening their day. Either way, it is a bond that we all share in that moment and it’s the best part of my day because I was able to be a part of bringing comfort to someone that needed healing in the same way that I experience it with a song.
What’s your favorite MOC Moment?
Matt: This is an easy one for me, but first I have to say that the early days of the Nashville MOC were exciting, busy and fun.
About a year after I began volunteering I was on a shift at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. We were invited into the room of a young man who had been in a coma for weeks, and it was obvious from all his family members in the room that the end was near. They were so grateful that we knocked on their door. We chatted with them a while, and they told us the whole story, that there was a good chance that he wouldn’t pull out of the coma. His mom asked me to play something uplifting. I know this is going to sound silly, but something changed in the room during that song. The energy of the family seemed to shift somehow. I can’t describe it, but everyone in the room that night noticed. We said our heartfelt goodbyes and left. Several days later MOC received an email from the boy’s mom. Apparently, shortly after we left the room that night, that young man woke up from his coma and was stabilizing. We heard he was able to go home a week or so later.
Maria: I have had so many incredible experiences over the years as an MOC volunteer. This month, Caroline (the musician I was paired with) and I had the amazing gift of being a part of a teenage girl’s celebration of healing. When we entered her room we were told that she just found out that the surgery was a success and that she was going home! We all celebrated with a song; it was such a joyous moment, and we got to be a part of it!
What inspires you to continue volunteering?
Matt: Plain and simple. Gratitude. Those of us fortunate enough to live in a highly developed country have so much at our fingertips. Technology, an abundance of job opportunities, and plenty of food are things a lot of us really don’t stop and think about very often. When we get sick or injured, it’s a huge reality check. We realize that we are not immortal, that we are fallible and fleeting. At that period in a person’s life when they are facing those unpleasant realities, several complete strangers offer up a moment of reprieve and ask for nothing in return. MOC is a good blueprint for life as a whole.
Maria: How could I not continue volunteering? The team at MOC are some of the kindest and most caring individuals that I have encountered here in Nashville. Their commitment to bringing the healing power of music to as many people as possible is inspiring. And for me, it’s a privilege and a gift to be able to volunteer and be a small part of this mission. As long as they will have me, I will continue to volunteer!
You can see Matt and Maria receive their Golden Ukes on May 31st at our 20th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration Presented By Pepsi, featuring a performance from Blake Shelton! You can get your tickets and learn more about the event at musiciansoncall.org/moc20