Often, the women are singing just as much — if not more so — for the patients' loved ones. The music they perform varies depending on the room they're in. They'll take recommendations from family members for music reminiscent of better times, but the women will have to rely on their own instincts for what's appropriate — and what's not. They perform what they feel is right depending on the mood and the amount of pain in the room.

If the patient is closer to death, the choir may steer clear of familiar songs as they can draw a person back to the present, or to their family. That's not always something to be desired. In those cases, Walker and her fellow singers may opt to sing in Latin, or perform a song with no words that can't tie the ailing person to anything on this Earth.

"Sometimes that's more soothing. They can sort of let go and let the music wash over them," says Walker.

Kellie Walker talks with Beck during Voices Lifted's visit to the hospice facility as Beck's niece and goddaughter, Amanda Klimczak, looks on.
Kholood Eid
Kellie Walker talks with Beck during Voices Lifted's visit to the hospice facility as Beck's niece and goddaughter, Amanda Klimczak, looks on.
Kellie Walker provides instructions for her choir (Nancy Wittenberg, Rebecca Riggs, and Melissa Bush) during a practice session at Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Chandler.
Kholood Eid
Kellie Walker provides instructions for her choir (Nancy Wittenberg, Rebecca Riggs, and Melissa Bush) during a practice session at Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Chandler.

Before starting Voices Lifted, Walker directed a group called the Tremble Clefs, a choir whose tongue-in-cheek name refers to its members' Parkinson's disease (although not all members are diagnosed with the disease; some are family members of those with Parkinson's). But after six years, Walker moved on to the next thing. She continued taking workshops through Threshold Choir that she soon used as examples to model Voices Lifted after, while still incorporating her own personal touches into the project.

And although the group's objective is to help promote healing and compassion to strangers, its members are often the ones in need. Their practice sessions — far from conventional — usually take place with the singers gathered in a circle, and one woman (usually whoever has had the worst day or week) lying on a cot in the center. From there, the group practices "singing with intent."

"So I really do have a strong personal connection to a lot of this. I've had a lot of loss, but I'm not the type of person that hides from it or denies it," Walker says. "And maybe because of that I have a big heart and a lot of empathy for being with people and their families. I do sort of feel it's my calling right now and to help people, other people, have that experience. If it's just one person, you can only go to so many places. But if I can train other people to do it, then we can reach more people."


Music has been the one constant in Kellie Walker's life. Her parents, Bill and Carole, met in a seminary, and both played piano. Walker's father was a Methodist minister, and her mother sang in the choir.

Walker, along with her siblings Katie, Joe, and Tom, all took piano lessons as children. Kellie began at age 6. And although the four siblings moved around the country and took on different jobs, they kept in touch with their musical backgrounds. Katie led a children's choir at her church; Joe, now a public school teacher, still plays guitar and sings regularly; and Tom, the youngest of the lot, performs with a barbershop quartet.

Originally from Oregon, Walker pursued a master's in creative arts in therapy with an emphasis in music at Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital (which since has been bought by Drexel University College of Medicine). There, she worked as a musical therapist before moving around the East Coast and finally settling in Phoenix.

And now she has children of her own to carry on the tradition.

Ben, 21, dabbled with different instruments but doesn't play an instrument or sing. Brian, 18, plays violin and even offers lessons, while Jolie (who was adopted from China at 81/2 months), 14, plays oboe and piano.

Walker, like her eldest son, can trace her first memories back to a mother singing lullabies.

Before Walker's mother died, she'd written the lyrics of lullabies down for Kellie in the diary she kept before and after Ben was born (the favorite to sing, by both Walker and her mother, was "Slumber Boat"). And when Ben was born via caesarean section, Walker asked the nurses for permission to sing. The nurses approved.

"So I sang all the way through his birth," says Walker. "To come into this world with music and to leave this world with music, how great is that?"

That was around the time that music began to manifest in most, if not all, aspects of Walker's life.

Her parents both died of AIDS not long after Ben was born. Her mother died in 1990 and her father followed two years later.

"At that time, I was only in my early 30s, and it was a tremendous loss," says Walker. "None of my peers were having any kind of loss like that, and it does change you."

Walker had recorded her mother singing lullabies to Ben shortly before she died. But the very same Thanksgiving weekend that Walker's mother passed away (Walker was not present because she was spending the holiday with her husband's family in Buffalo), the recordings vanished. Her husband had accidentally recorded over the tape.

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8 comments
Guest
Guest

Thank you for those who help others in need.

Allainnia
Allainnia

I would love to become a part of something like this, but I am not able to find any information regarding contacting "Voices Lifted". Please contact me at Allainnia@yahoo.comThanks,Alla

Dumoudan
Dumoudan

If the 12,000,000 plus illegal immigrants had a political leaning towards the conservative republicans would the pro illegal immigrants group still help with amnesty? I don't think so.

Deniseaz
Deniseaz

i am sitting here , not sure what to say ,, but really must not hold my voice still . i have another take on HOSPICE OF THE VALLY ,,, and the hell i PERSONALLY have had to endure . and yes , i can prove what i say ,,, heck , will open my personal HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY ,RECORD FILES for a $500.00 bill, ) at least i will get compensation some how . but even that 500.,00 would be small compared to that which i should be compensated for !!

i have been placed on HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY 2 TIMES ,,,,,, yes,, 2 TIMES ,,, shall not ever again even trust any hospice , and shall not ever forget , nor forgive ,

and my insurance, , yes, they too are in hot water over the stunt pulled by an insurance case manager ,, LAURA STIENWICH .... and not to go un left , is the Arizona State Ombudsman , no longer there , worker , RUDY ,M.

no i shall not ever forget that which was done, from tossing massive amounts of morphine to me , to the most basic abuse of human dignity , is when you find out that you have been a toy to be played ,, and not in the humane way either , nothing i can ever think of is worse than to have a case manager ,( Laura ,S.) place me on hospice, ,EVEN WHEN MY DR at that time was OUT OFT HE NATION !!!!!!! and there was no grounds for such action as that which Laura did ,

After Hospice of the valley found the mess up, and that i was placed with out Dr orders ,, the best thing Laura could say, was " well it happened , just live with it ," and get over it , it is water under the Bridge ,," ......... NO ONE EVER GETS OVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS < NOT EVER !!! she did not even apologize ,, nothing ,,

to this day , and till the time I DO finally depart , i shall loath both Hospice of the Valley ,and the case worker ....

and yes, i do have paperwork that will back it up , but at least i shall get a little comp back , soooo very little in comparison to the damage done .

Ordon234
Ordon234

It's really feel sad to lose some one we love, that's one the most saddest part of life but sometimes it feel better to know that many people loved and care for us even we know that we are going to die because of our illness. Dying is just part of life, so I guess cherish the life you have and the things that make you happy while you live and enjoy living.Monticello Hospice

Vacation Packages India
Vacation Packages India

In regards to stress, music can influence a person mentally and relax the mind in many ways. On the emotional level music can bring forth a cathartic experience

Deniseaz
Deniseaz

not even music shall ever clean over the damages done by Hospice of the valley ,,, not even close

 
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