The Healing Power of Music

Volunteer musicians provide much more than entertainment for patients recovering at Mercy Medical Center.

Story by Nate Hansen, Photos by Thomas Boyd

On a calm morning in the hall just outside Mercy Medical Center’s intensive care unit, Tim Juett is beginning his day’s work. 

Nurses, physicians and hospital technicians move through the wide hallway along with the occasional patient or visitor. Juett is unique among the group. He’s a volunteer musician, one of several who donate their time and talent by playing in Mercy’s Music to Heal program. 

On this morning Juett, an accordionist, has a special opening act for his performance of American standards. Another volunteer, Katherine Kerns, is also on hand to play traditional Chinese music on a zither. 


Known in China as a Gu Zheng, the zither is a large stringed instrument similar to a harp. The instrument’s origin dates back more than 2,000 years. With her technical prowess and instinctive sense of melody, Kerns’ performances are popular in Mercy’s halls and often attract an audience. 

Kerns has performed and taught music for more than 40 years. She holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan and is involved in several music projects — both local and international. But she also makes time for her performances at Mercy. 

Michelle Kronner, Mercy’s director of volunteer services, founded the therapeutic music program in 2015. She was inspired by local musician David Bennett, who often played guitar for his wife when she was an ICU patient. 


“When (Bennett) was playing, patients would come out of their rooms to listen, nurses would open doors, I could see the immediate impact,” Kronner says. 

Bennett became one of the program’s first musicians; now between two and seven musicians perform at Mercy each month, and Kronner hopes to see that number grow. 

“I’d like to have high school students come play,” she says. “They wouldn’t have a formal audience here; it would help get their jitters out.”


Juett, a retired physical therapist, also began playing at Mercy in 2015. His introduction to the program came during an especially difficult time. 

“My first week playing at Mercy was the week after the UCC shooting,” says Juett, who now plays at the hospital at least once a month. “There was a Red Cross liaison person in the ICU that week. After listening for a little bit, she came over to me with tears in her eyes and thanked me for what I was doing and said how beautiful it was.” 

To learn more about Mercy’s Music to Heal program, or to volunteer your musical talents, visit