In the early 1950s, when Rose Jackson was just eight years old, she took piano lessons for only $1 per lesson. Who would have thought those lessons would lead her down a road that would bring joy to so many of the most deserving individuals in our community?
Rose has been playing music for more than 60 years for churches, singing groups, parties, events, fundraisers, ceremonies, nursing/retirement homes and with various bands; but two years ago, she felt a calling to volunteer for the hospital. “I started as a ‘volunteer,’ but the hospital has graciously reimbursed and accommodated me,” said Jackson. She played in the cafeteria, in the Sticht Center, and the Janeway Tower, but she took some time off due to family needs and personal stress.
She was later asked by the Cancer Center to play for a special event where she says she discovered her “place and calling.” “It was therapeutic and stress-free,” explained Jackson. She now finds herself playing in the waiting room of the Cancer Center. “The patients, caretakers, families, staff and volunteers give me so much more than I take to them. I make them smile, and they make me happy. They make me feel appreciated, instead of tolerated. Each time is like a family reunion with new members, coming together to reminisce, and comfort and encourage each other—a delightful, distraction for the hurting. It is a time of unity and hope.”
The music Rose plays offers a bright mood for the patients and families she plays for. “I don’t play sad songs; I play mostly with a ‘Rag-time’ tempo with even hymns for a happy beat,” said Jackson. “And, sometimes, as a disguise to not offend the different religious faiths.”
As a child, Rose played the piano in church and is most comfortable with Gospel or other spiritual music—anything but heavy metal! Through the years, she has had many remarkable experiences inspired by her music. “I have played ‘Country Gardens’ for a lady from Europe who couldn’t speak English; played for a two-year-old boy who would only say, ‘Old McDonald’; and my heartstrings were ‘played’ while accompanying a nurse, caretaker and a patient singing Christmas songs,” added Jackson. “Nothing communicates like music, and it’s a language everyone understands. Music speaks love and caring!”
Rose hopes to continue playing music for another 60 years—which will surely please the countless individuals who have been touched by her music. In addition to music, Rose creates artwork, such as caricatures and illustrations that she often incorporates into her music. She is a firm believer in sharing your talents with others. “If you can offer a kind word to a weary soul, you have a talent,” suggested Jackson. “Things have a way of working out for good when sharing your ‘gifts.’”