The List

“Hey Lady! Hey Lady! You got my name on the list? Hey Lady!”

I was 22 years old when I began my six month internship required for my Music Therapy degree. And those were the words that cheerfully-eerily greeted me yelled out through the air as I studiously strolled down the sidewalk to face my first day of work. Already somewhat dreary eyed from a first night’s  sleep interrupted by a woman’s blood curdling cries echoing into the eternity of souls that certainly lived behind my new chamber walls, the naivete and illusion of my youth began to shiver. It was the dawning of a new existence within an isolated culture of its own that rose with the sun that day. In an institution on “The Hill”  along the outskirts of a small Hudson Valley hamlet holding claim to it’s Guinness record for least amount of daylight settled a dark harbored world hidden from the mainstream. 

Every day it was music, music, music and if it was good, it was therapy. Behind closed doors, drums resounded, voices rang while melodies emerged from the piano as the Music Therapists introduced us to clients from their referral lists from which we would choose our caseloads. After notations of memorable features, responses and  well, “basic chemistry”, I made my list of names. Names on a list, my caseload. Weekly inservices trained us in Pentatonic, Fifties, Major 7ths, 12 bar Blues, Major key, Minor mode, and the list goes on for the chord progressions of the improvisational framework for our music making sessions. But it wasn’t just about making music.

With all the knowledge, skill and formulas…therapy brewed in what I would call mostly the intangible realm. Many times I tried to document progress by evidence of rhythm, memory in a song, keeping a beat despite a spasticity in the upswing. Success was measured in baby steps against a system that often expected great strides. 

Therapy, I discovered, was in a moment, suspended in time that gave glimpse to eternity. It was more than the music. It transcended the very vehicle from which it was born. My evaluation of success did not refer to a list with elements of music merely put down on paper.  No, success spoke to my heart. Did you see the smile of an angel? Or witness the crying of a soul? Did you hear a voice of love? Or the laughter of Joy? And in this musical moment did you enter a space together that could even be called holy? And when you looked in their eyes, did you see God?  And my heart skipped a beat to say, “Yes!”

Six months turned into 31 years. A scary institution turned into an incredible work place community. And eery voices…amazing people living in bodies and minds that betrayed them. 

So many names. So many lists.

“Hey lady. Hey lady. You got my name on the list?” 

Yes. Oh yes!  Your name is on the list.

“Hey Lady”

“Hey Dennis”


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