The arts have been used throughout time as a way to entertain, to teach and to convey messages that are important to the artist. At times, it’s forgotten the arts can do something quite magical as, well, heal and comfort those in need.
A prime example of the healing power of the arts comes from violinist Anthony Hyatt, who will be playing the Fair Folk Fiddler for Imagination Stage’s production of “Rumpelstiltskin,” running through March 16 in Bethesda.
Hyatt offers his services through the organization Moving Beauty, where he is the founder. Hyatt plays violin for pediatric and cancer patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and is co-director for the nonprofit Arts for the Aging program Quicksilver, a senior citizens improv dance company. A master trainer for the National Center for Creative Aging, Hyatt also is an instructor of a Dance for Parkinson’s class.
For “Rumpelstiltskin,” Hyatt has double duty, as he has written the music he’ll play on stage during the show.
“Originally, we had thought I would have a spoken part, but I was actually somewhat relieved when [director Janet Stanford] decided to let my voice be the violin,” Hyatt said. “That allowed me, while we were rehearsing the play, to concentrate on the music because I was working in real time improvising and trying to write down my ideas and drawing on the various sources of music for the show.”
The seed for Hyatt to perform at Imagination Stage was planted years ago by his friend Kate Bryer, who serves as associate artistic director for the theater. The two were neighbors in the Bannockburn neighborhood in Bethesda.
Every year, Bannockburn has a Halloween parade where Hyatt dresses up and plays the fiddle.
“She thought that it would be wonderful to have my music in a show at Imagination Stage and she talked with Janet about this idea,” Hyatt said. “It took a long time before they were able to come to a show in which it fit. ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ is the one that did.”
For 15 years, Hyatt has worked with Arts for the Aging. After being invited by friend Nancy Havlik to join her, Hyatt became co-director for Quicksilver. Originally, Hyatt was coming on board as a musician, but the group quickly evolved to the point where Hyatt would co-direct with Havlik and the two would do performances and workshops at senior care facilities.
Eventually, Arts for the Aging asked Hyatt to become a solo artist for them.
“So I got involved doing this work initially as a volunteer and then being paid for something that I loved doing,” Hyatt said. “It grew as my life progressed and I wanted to learn more.”
Hyatt took a course – artists and hospital training – at Montgomery College. According to Hyatt, Judy Rollins, a registered nurse with a Ph.D. who taught the class, does a lot of work with arts and healthcare with the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, including a pediatric program called Studio G.
“She invited me to join that program as one of their artists,” Hyatt said. “I started going in to the pediatric units and doing music for the patients and their families.”
Over time, Hyatt became more involved, working with the hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center where he would visit and perform for the patients, families and the staff.
Hyatt’s work with older patients grew, as well. He became a master trainer for the National Center for Creative Aging.
“Basically, I found this strange little niche that I could never have written a script for the way my career developed,” Hyatt said. “… I guess the best way to say it is I took a leap of faith. I quit the job that was paying my bills and kept the one that was my heart.
“I never look back. I keep on doing it and the universe keeps giving me opportunities to do wonderful things.”