CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – With fingers poised to pluck the strings of his Yulong Guo Concert Master classical guitar, the retired Rev. Jeffrey Diller announces the final song he’ll play for Walter Matthews Sr., a patient in Chambersburg Hospital’s Critical Care Unit, and his wife, Martha.
“Let me finish with a hit tune. A hit tune from 1550,” quipped Diller, his good-natured laughter echoed by the couple.
Walter, who received a clean bill of health and was discharged soon after Diller’s performance, noted he played guitar when he was in World War II and listed his tastes in musical preferences from over the years.
“I’m really fond of the ballads, old style,” he said after Diller entered his CCU room and introduced himself. “I like Kingston Trio; Peter, Paul and Mary; John Denver. But I also like Willie Nelson. So, I like a wide variety of music.”
“You won’t hear any of that,” Diller laughed.
Diller explained he sticks to Renaissance pieces, traditional Spanish music and early twentieth century songs to help patients relax. He plays from memory and avoids toting around a music stand and music since the additional objects can be too cumbersome in the hospital rooms.
“I think it works better almost if they don’t recognize a song because that just stimulates,” he added.
For patients who are alert, he offers a brief history lesson behind some of the songs.
Diller started volunteering with his guitar about a year-and-a-half ago as a way to practice and share the healing power of music with patients. He admits his venture into playing guitar was partly a mid-life crisis.
“I was about 50 years old and I thought, ‘What kind of hobby do I want to be able to have for when I retire and when I get older?’”
He tried to learn on his own for a couple years but started taking lessons when he wasn’t making much progress. He’s taken lessons at Cumberland Valley School of Music for the last decade and retired from ministry in May.
Previously, a harpist played music for CCU patients. When that stopped, Pastoral Services sent a letter to CVSM seeking a volunteer who could fill the void. Since Diller already was a pastor, the request seemed a natural fit.
Diller tries to volunteer each Monday on the CCU.
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