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Young violinist uplifts veteran patients

August 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of veterans are treated daily at the Jerry Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Loma Linda. Every other weekend, many veterans in the nursing home section of the hospital are entertained by a 17-year-old violinist, Alexander Knecht. He is convinced that his playing helps patients escape their pain and boredom. The staff calls it music therapy.

"Last Christmas, my sister actually caroled here with some of her friends, and they thought this would be a nice place for me to play," says Knecht.

The young violinist has found a very appreciative audience at the hospital.

"He's really inspiring," says veteran David Cobbs, adding that his days at the hospital can be "pretty long and pretty sad sometimes."

Veteran Howard Fay has been a patient at the hospital for three years. He enjoys Irish music.

"Well, he helped break up a long, weary day," says Fay.

"It never fails to put a smile on my face," says Knecht. "I love to see people reacting, humming, singing, or moving, nodding, or anything."

Many of the veterans say music plays an important role in their lives.

"I've got a radio going all the time. It's just a part of me," says veteran David Seabol.

Alexander gets an inner satisfaction from sharing his talent with the veterans.

"I've been playing violin for a long time, and over the years, I've gotten to a level where I think I really ought to share the talent that I have. It's a gift from god, you might say, that you should share with others," he says.

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