LOS ANGELES (NBC News) — Coleman Itzkoff is used to performing in front of thousands, but during the pandemic, the American Modern Opera Company cellist has shifted to audiences of one.
He plays for listeners like Wendy Lawson as she undergoes cancer treatment at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“If only for a temporary moment, their consciousness is taken away from feelings of sickness, of pain,” he says.
For Wendy, a ballet teacher versed in classical music, it’s become a key connection.
“I will ask him, I will request for him to play something specifically, and that’s what’s so lovely is that you look forward to it now as opposed to having that dread,” she says.
The virtual concerts are part of an initiative by non-profit Project: Music Heals Us.
It’s now offered in more than 20 hospitals across the country.
The program has proven to be a lifeline for patients and musicians whose livelihoods continue to be threatened by the pandemic.
“It just adds a level of ease and comfort,” Wendy says.
New York-based Coleman hopes to one day make the trip to California to play for Wendy in person.
“I really can’t wait for that moment to happen,” he says.
“I would first hug him,” Wendy laughs, “and then I would say ‘Play for me.'”