A ukulele’s sunny, mellow sounds waft through the hall of the hematology/oncology unit.
The soft music leads to a patient’s room, where nurse Julia Junn sits, plucking strings and singing, as patient Ruben watches on with a smile.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day and the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Now on her second serenade, Julia’s performance is just another example of a CHOC nurse going above and beyond for a patient.
Ruben finds the music calming: “It’s very nice,” he says.
While Julia was caring for Ruben recently, the two talked about a television show character who played the ukulele. Julia mentioned that she also played, and Ruben encouraged her to bring it to work sometime.
A longtime piano player, Julia started tinkering with the ukulele two years ago as a nursing student in Maryland. The instrument was compact, and its smooth, happy sound channeled memories of her native Southern California.
“I thought, What’s a better time than now to learn a new instrument that’s fun and portable to keep me company?” Julia says.
Music plays an integral role at CHOC Children’s. In addition to its multi-talented staff like Julia, CHOC has a music therapy program, which addresses patients’ physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs.
Music therapists can create an individualized program to promote better health or encourage a child’s focus on getting better; manage stress; ease pain; express feelings or fears; increase verbal and non-verbal communication; and help increase gross and fine motor movements.
As for the musical nurse, Julia firmly maintains that she is still learning ukulele. Even still, her repertoire already ranges from emo band Death Cab For Cutie to songs from Disney movies. With a strong musical background, she can learn songs quickly – and even takes requests.
“I’m more than happy to play it again,” Julia told Ruben. “Just let me know.”
It sounds like he might take her up on that offer – and raise the stakes.
“Ruben mentioned that he wanted to hear me play piano,” Julia said. “So, all we have to do is find a keyboard!”
Check out another ukulele performance from Julia.
Meet other members of the CHOC Children’s care team: