Violins make a connection at Elder Service Plan center

By 
Jordan Frias, Special to the Reporter
Mar. 20, 2014

Elizabeth Moody, left, and Dr. Bernice Wong play together at the Elder Service Plan on Morton Street.

At age 66, Elizabeth Moody said a prayer that she would be able to play the violin again. And that prayer was answered, in large part by her violin teacher, Dr. Bernice Wong, medical director at the Elder Service Plan center on Morton Street.

Moody is a participant of the PACE program at the center where she has connected with Dr. Wong, who gives her private violin lessons once or twice a month. Although Wong is not Moody’s doctor and is not trained in music therapy, she enjoys her sessions with Moody, which she said brings her happiness. “She’s really making progress at a beginner’s level. Eventually, things will come easier. A lot of it has to do with muscle movement.”

Wong, who has been playing the violin for 40 years, describes herself as an amateur. She said that most practices consist of Moody trying to hold up her violin and bowing freely in the air. “It really brightens her up. At other times she can tend to be very withdrawn,” Wong said.
According to Jose Soto, activities director at the center who got Wong and Moody together, the pair have been having lessons together since November 2013. As activities director, Soto runs a music exploratory group that exposes seniors to classical music. It was during one of those sessions that he discovered Moody’s love of the classical sound and her desire to play the violin again.

Moody said she first started playing the violin at age 17 after writing a letter to her glee club colleague, Sr. Jane Elizabeth of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. “I wrote a letter to her saying I always wished I had played the violin,” Moody said. The nun then provided her with a violin that she used in school and was allowed to take home with her every week while enrolled at Braintree’s Archbishop Williams High School.

Moody, who lives in the Standish Village assisted living facility on Adams Street in Lower Mills, said she grew to love classical music from watching the Pops Symphony perform in Boston. She cites the violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin as “an outstanding figure” in her life, and said she also enjoys Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” a song that Wong said Moody would like to play one day.

Wong said she has never worked with a patient the way she has worked with Moody since she came to the Elder Service Plan 13 years ago. “It just makes me happy to do something outside of medicine that is therapeutic,” she said. “I am happy that it is bringing her out of her shell.”

Moody said the sessions with Wong have allowed her to play the violin that her sister Joan gave her almost two years ago. She said her family and friends are “very touched” by the fact that she is learning to play again, adding that Joan sat in on one of her sessions with Wong. Teacher Wong says her student often smiles and cries during music lessons, which Soto refers to as Moody “enjoying the moment.”

Moody, who has been dealing with depression, said that picking up the violin again has allowed her to release her inner emotions. Before playing the violin she said, “I was unable to let my feelings flow [and] I wanted to express how I feel,” she said.

Soto said this is the first time he has connected a doctor to a client in this type of way. “She had this lost connection with the violin and we were able to get her to connect with it again. It’s like a fairy tale,” he said.