Becoming a great musician wasn’t enough for double bassist Lloyd Goldstein. He’d reached that zenith early in his 21-year tenure with the Florida Orchestra, but he was left wanting something else, something more … tangible.
He found it when he began working with Moffitt Cancer Center’s Arts in Medicine program, as a Certified Music Practitioner.
He started playing his upright bass 13 years ago at the groundbreaking Tampa facility, going from room to room, bedside to bedside, playing for patients and their families. He was hired as a full-time staff member in 2008.
“Seeing the incredible courage that people have, in the midst of some of the worst times in their life, I’m constantly amazed at the way people rise to the occasion and take care of each other,” Goldstein says. “And take care of themselves. And I hope that I can do as well as they do when I’m faced with those kind of challenges.”
A patient, Goldstein explains, once told him the bowed double bass is the perfect instrument for musical therapy, “because you feel it in your body. You feel it in your in your bones. And it’s very soothing.”
A composer and arranger, too, Goldstein has no regrets about stepping away from the live ensemble playing that used to be his bread and butter. The road hasn’t always been easy, but he wouldn’t trade a thing. “I’m constantly amazed by the power of music to transform the way a person feels,” he says. “To move a person from the inside out.
“I am not a music therapist; I don’t do assessments. I’m not looking for specific clinical outcomes. Although we do consider the work that we do to be therapeutic.”
He and his fellow artists-in-residence are inspired by what they call “remembered wellness” – when the music seems to remind patients that there are other aspects of like than illness, fear and hospitals. “Sometimes you see almost immediate transformations in their energy, the expression of their face, the way they look,” Goldstein says. “Our job is to facilitate offering the arts – we offer music, visual arts and others – and to get out of the way as much as possible and let the art form do its magic.”
It’s extremely intimate, he explains. “I’m playing, oftentimes, for people that are sitting six feet from me. It’s not like a performance, it’s a service that you’re doing. It has to be real. You have to center yourself and become part of that picture. It can’t be detached. Every line, every gesture, every nuance counts. They sense everything.
“So what it’s done for me as a musician is cause me to be very present on a regular basis, every time I play. Moffitt has made me a better musician.”
Goldstein will make a rare trip across the bay this Saturday, March 9, to play in a small chamber group at St. Pete Opera Company’s Opera Central. He’ll be the bassist in the ensemble conducted by Mark Sforzini for a performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. It involves music, actors, a dancer and a narrator.
The Saturday program, Creative Collaborations, features several “different” combinations of music, musicians, instruments and art forms.
Goldstein is doing it because of his longtime friendship with Sforzini, who played bassoon in the orchestra during his time in the ranks.
A segment of Creative Collaborations is devoted to a duo performance by Goldstein on bass, and Joshua Paul – a multi-instrumentalist – on banjo.
Yep, classical bass and banjo. “Josh doesn’t think of instruments in a limited way, or in a traditional way,” Goldstein explains. “He just uses the instrument as a vehicle for his own ideas, and his own voice. So he doesn’t play the banjo the way you normally think of it. He plays it like a guitar, really, more than anything. Like a classical guitar.”
Goldstein once performed as one-half of Singing Tree, with hammered dulcimer player Ray Belanger (himself a veteran of the Moffitt Arts in Medicine program). They made two albums together. So he knows all about collaborative creativity and ignoring conventions.
For Saturday’s concert, he and banjoist Paul will perform several numbers, encompassing classical, rhythm ‘n’ blues, experimental music and one of Goldstein’s own compositions.
The combination, he stresses, isn’t really unprecedented. Their model is the exemplary work done by Bela Fleck (banjo) and Edgar Meyer (upright bass).
“The music we play isn’t as … involved, I guess I’d say, as what they’re doing,” Goldstein adds. “It’s much simpler arrangements. But still along the same kind of sensibility.”