Soothing music from Sarah

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 10:00 p.m.


Hear Sarah play

  • VA Medical Center: Monday (times vary).
  • Shands at UF atrium: noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday.
  • Shands at AGH lobby: noon to 1 p.m. Friday.
  • Hospice House: 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday.

  • 'If I didn't have music, I don't know what I'd do. It's so fulfilling," says 84-year-old Sarah Black of Gainesville.
    While she loves to play music - she's a pianist, and Chopin is her specialty - what Black really means is that without sharing her love for music, she doesn't know what she'd do.
    Four days a week she plays piano in public, for free, at area medical centers to cheer people up as they await their medical appointments or come and go to visit loved ones.
    "There's stress at the hospital," says Constance Keeton, director of volunteer and community resources at Shands at AGH. "When you're able to come in and this beautiful music is playing, it gives people something to focus on other than the challenges and stresses they face."
    Black plays to bring lightness and respite. It's what she has to give at age 84, still passionate about the music she's loved all her life.
    By age 10 - after just three years of lessons - Black was hailed as one of the most promising pianists in her native Detroit, Mich., but rather than have a musical career, she raised a family instead.
    She moved to Gainesville from Detroit in February 1998 after the death of her husband and mother to be near her son, Dr. David Black, a family physician in Gainesville.
    Today, she is grateful for her family and her ability to keep on giving. And her listeners love her for it.
    "I had played at Hospice and I was on the way out, and this lady comes after me. She says, 'Weren't you the one playing piano?' And I said yes. She said, 'My grandfather died about 3 hours ago. You can't believe how your beautiful music helped soothe our sorrow.'
    "I held on until I got in the car, and then I started sobbing," Black says, tears welling up again as she tells this story. "You touch people so deeply. I thank God every day that I'm able to (play)."
    Here's another story. She was playing piano at Shands at UF when a man stopped to talk with her. He said, "When I have an appointment with my dentist, my blood pressure goes sky high. But listening to you, I can feel it just went down."
    Another time at the same venue, a pizza delivery man slid a $2 tip across the piano. She told him she didn't play for money, but he insisted she take it, anyway, telling her to "pass it on." She did - into a Salvation Army pot.
    Parents and their children stop to listen, and come up to talk afterward. Well-meaning moms ask Black to inspire-encourage-cajole their kids to practice piano.
    Black tells them: "You'll see, later in life it's going to bring you a lot of pleasure, and you can bring pleasure to other people, too."

    Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top