ORMOND BEACH, Florida — Marvin Sherzer didn't touch the piano keys for more than four decades.
Today, the 67-year-old certified music practitioner provides soothing sounds to patients recovering at Florida Hospital Oceanside after taking a 46-year hiatus from the instrument. Therapeutic music is played at the patient's bedside to relieve pain and anxiety.
"We bring a human touch to a patient who is alone," Sherzer said. "He's in a strange environment. He's overly concerned about his health. Without any pharmaceutical or any invasive procedures, we can bring him distraction, comfort and enrichment."
The son of a musician who worked for Disney, Sherzer traded the piano for the pitching mound when he was a teenager growing up in Philadelphia. He played two years in the minor leagues and then went on to have a career in the insurance business. During that time, he never thought of the piano — an instrument his father loved and he had learned as a child.
Then his dad entered hospice in 2008. A musician played the harp during his father's dying days, and it soothed him. When his mother died a year later, Sherzer started taking lessons.
Remembering the positive effect music had on his father in hospice, Sherzer studied to become a certified music practitioner. His role is more than entertainer. He plays music at the patient's bedside specifically tailored to the condition.
Music has the power to relax and distract, Sherzer said
"What other modality can put a baby to sleep — like Brahms' Lullaby — and inspire men during times of war?" he said.
On Thursday, Sherzer rolled his keyboard into a patient room on a cart. A thick binder filled with sheet music accompanied him. Sherzer works four days a week at Florida Hospital Oceanside, which serves patients recovering from strokes and traumatic injuries.
Dan Mongosa, 50, rested in a bed — still exhausted from a strenuous day of physical therapy. On June 2, Mongosa suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it will require a long period of therapy.
"You going to warm up with Chopin or Mozart?" Mongosa asked.
Sherzer started with Bach. Then he moved to Beethoven's "Fur Elise." He finished with "The Blue Danube," a waltz written by Austrian composer Johann Strauss II. A typical session lasts about 30 minutes.
Mongosa said the music made him forget he was in a hospital. Instead, the classical songs reminded him of watching figure skating on television during the Winter Olympics with his wife.
"It puts you in a peaceful place," said Mongosa, an Edgewater resident who works for Daytona Beach-based Teledyne Oil and Gas. "You don't think about anything but the music. It makes the pain less noticeable."
Sherzer is happy with his new job. While working in the insurance business, customers never seemed happy to see him.
Now, he watches worried looks turn to smiles.
The biggest compliment Sherzer says he receives: A patient in pain falls asleep.
Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com