The music played during a palliative vigil supports the process that is taking place within and around the patient.  

The music-thanatologist works with the raw materials of music: melody, harmony, and rhythm. The music is prescriptive because it is played to address the patient's specific condition at the present moment. It is dynamic, adjusting throughout the vigil in response to observed and measured changes in the patient. No two vigils are ever alike. Harp and voice are used together, and separately at times, interspersed with periods of silence. Most of the music will be new to listeners. Old favorites are not usually played because of their potential association with the past. This is a time when someone is moving forward, and unfamiliar music supports the process of moving into a new condition. 


Any staff physician, nurse, chaplain, social worker, administrator, patient or family member may make a clinical referral for a music session.  


The music-thanatologist documents outcomes by noting both quantifiable and qualitative aspects such as pulse, respiration, temperature, countenance, gesture, and skin color, etc. We begin with a period of silence, focusing on the breath of the patient, and playing music that synchronizes with heartbeat, pulse, and respiration. Often the pulse rate will lower and the person receiving the music will fall into a deep sleep during or after a visit. Anxiety and agitation can be lessened, relaxation can be achieved, and many patients require less opiate medication following a vigil. Each person in attendance may benefit from this musical expression of care.

When participating in a music vigil it is appropriate to turn off cell phones, and discontinue the use of all technology. Confidentiality and HIPPA regulations prohibit the use of sound recording, taking photos, or video recording. Limiting movement in and out of the room allows the overtones of the music to accumulate. 


The morning my mother was actively dying the music lifted me out of the depths, and I was able to be present for her. It allowed me to experience the beauty of her passing.
— Daughter of Patient
The music calms the patient’s neurological symptoms for hours beyond your visit. We need you here often.
— RN at Skilled Nursing Facility
Words cannot express my gratitude for the music vigil you offered my mother. During the music we were able to express our tenderest feelings to each other. Those were the last words she spoke before slipping into a coma. Recalling that experience softens the pain of her absence.
— Son of Patient

“I feel sheets of peace washing over me. The music fills me with gratitude for all the people in my life. It allows me to embrace myself, and find compassion from a higher place.”

—Cancer Patient

Your music put my husband right to sleep. I could even feel my pulse slowing down. I had forgotten about the power of music. Thank you.
— Wife of Patient

“This was the only moment of peace our family felt over the past several months of our mother’s declining health. In spite of all the doctors and drugs and hospitals, the music was the only help that made a difference.”

— Son of Patient


Please visit my contact page if you have questions, or are interested in scheduling a vigil.