Forces@Work: The Perfect Dose of Music and Medicine Date Published: March 10, 2010
When Nancy Chane agreed to fill a spot in her elementary school’s orchestra, little did she know that decades later she would be an accomplished cellist who brings music to everything she does.
Chane, a palliative care program manager, joined the Tufts Health Plan Medicare Preferred staff in October 2009. She is also a member of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a group of musicians who work in the health care industry. Chane recently participated in the LSO’s Symphonic Relief for Haiti concert, which Tufts Health Plan supported financially and which several employees attended. The benefit concert, an effort that has been adopted by orchestras around the world, has raised $90,000 to date for Partners In Health, a Boston-based health services organization working in Haiti.
Chane started playing cello in the fourth grade at St. Gregory School in Dorchester, moved on to the prestigious Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and then played with several community orchestras. Chane debated pursuing a career as a professional musician, but her dream to be a nurse took precedent. “I knew from the fifth grade that I wanted to be a nurse, but music was something that I loved and didn’t want to be without,” she said. “I look at the world through a musician’s eyes and ears.”
Chane’s father, a violinist, inspired her to play cello with the school orchestra. She had used the same student instrument since then. When her father passed away, she used a small inheritance to buy her first new cello as a way to remember him.
Chane joined LSO about 25 years ago and is one of 12 cellists in the group. The group rehearses at Boston Latin School every Thursday and brings together people who may otherwise be competitors in their day jobs. “The orchestra crosses over the traditional boundaries of the local health care community,” Chane explained. “For example, employees at Partners, Beth Israel and Children’s Hospital all come together to make music.” In a symphony of doctors, therapists, scientists and researchers, Chane is the only nurse and the only representative of a health insurer. In her role at Tufts Health Plan, Chane educates members and their families about palliative care and hospice services. She became interested in end-of-life care as a profession as her father was dying in 2005. “Hospice for my father was tremendously consoling and I learned how valuable hospice can be,” she said.
After 25 years as a case manager in a variety of settings, Chane is responsible for increasing use of hospice and palliative care. “It may seem unusual after years of managing utilization to be encouraging it,” Chane reflected. “But my job now is about getting our members access to the best specialty care at a very special time in their lives.”
Chane said working in palliative care, “just made me feel so good.” That’s how she described her music career as well. “Making live music is a gift, and not everyone can do it. I love the spontaneity of it, and how it just exists for an instant.” The LSO members call themselves “healer musicians” and the symphony uses its performances to raise funds and awareness for medical causes. The Healing Art of Music program selects four nonprofit community partners each year as beneficiaries of LSO concerts. The monthly LSO on Call program brings chamber music directly to patients at hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities. Chane participates in these small group concerts one to two times per year.
In addition to sharing the magic of music with fellow performers, Chane has made friends in the orchestra – including a few admitted “Yo-Yo Ma groupies” who are trying to secure tickets to the world-renowned cellist’s upcoming concert in Boston – who can speak the common language of music. She also learned to be part of a team, a skill she brings to the office. “I have to be alert to the team, because in a meeting or on the concert stage, it’s not just about me – it’s about the 100 people around me.”
In return for all that music has given her, Chane volunteers her time on the LSO’s board of directors as the treasurer. In 20 years in this role, she has mastered Microsoft Excel and the intricacies of budgeting for a nonprofit. “I’m certainly not a finance person – none of the musicians are” she said. “I do it for the orchestra, because I get back every moment I’ve given to the orchestra.”