For Pittsburgher Devin Arrington, the theory behind his organization Musicians with a Mission has been that. Whether it’s classical, bluegrass, country or jazz, music is a universal language that contributes to the growth and maturation of the mind.
As a professional violinist who started playing at the age of 2, Arrington is also a composer and instructor. And with Musicians With a Mission, where he serves as founding director, he leads a group of fellow musicians who play in assisted living nursing facilities around Pittsburgh.
“I always enjoyed playing in health care facilities,” Arrington said. “Like a lot of people, I would try to find ways to use my musical gifts. It's so important to me to try to express clearly the passion I have for what I do.”
According to Arrington, the seeds of the program were planted during his formative years.
“As a teenager, I went and played for a man who had a severe stroke and his wife was now his caretaker and he almost didn't speak at all,” he said. “He just started from the TV most the time. And when I finished playing he looked at me and he said ‘that was beautiful’ and his wife started tearing up and she said he's never spoken those words.”
A paper commissioned by the Musical Connections Program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in 2011 describes how “music works across a person’s lifespan to develop, protect, and to repair the brain.” Arrington said for many who lead a sedentary lifestyle, the live performances help mentally and physically stimulate the observer.
Soprano singer Rosemary Pavlovsky is one of more than 30 musicians who participate in the program and says it's just as uplifting for her as it may be for the residents.
“I absolutely love this work I'm so passionate about it because of these people deserve good music and I believe in a therapeutic quality to music,” Pavlovsky said.
According to Pavlovsky, using music, which can transcend race, gender and socio-economic background, is what brings people together. Her role with Musicians with a Mission is one she said will be an integral part of her life for the foreseeable future.
“Devin is one of our area's greatest and he also obviously has very big heart and he saw a need for it and I agree with him one hundred percent.”
Arrington’s hope is that the work of spreading live music in nursing facilities will expand far beyond western Pennsylvania.
“I expected it to be wonderfully received by the residents but what pleasantly surprised me is how much it meant to musicians too,” Arrington said. “My longterm vision was always that Pittsburgh could act as a model city for what could be in the future in other cities.”