By Lin Sue Flood
Photos courtesy of Hospice of the Valley

You see it at every symphony performance. People so enraptured by the music — their eyes close and their fingers dance in the air.

Stuart Brown is one of those people. But as illness began to limit his mobility, the 81-year-old relinquished the thought of ever attending a live concert again. That’s when his Hospice of the Valley nurse secretly reached out to the Phoenix Symphony with a request to hold a small private concert in his Scottsdale home.

“We absolutely can make this happen for him and his family,” says Valerie Bontrager, director of community engagement. Days later, concertmaster Boson Mo and associate concertmaster Maggie Martinic arrived to play Brown’s favorites — from “Fiddler on the Roof” to classical compositions by Strauss, Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven.

“To see him enjoying the songs and tapping his foot was incredibly rewarding,” says Martinic. “When music inspires people, that’s a gift back to us.”

Brown’s daughter, Heather, was blown away by their talent. “It’s not every day that two first-chair violinists come to your home,” she says. “They gave Dad a day that will never be forgotten. Our hearts are full!”

The mini concert so energized Brown that his nurse, Kirsta Johnson, gently encouraged attending a live performance again. The Phoenix Symphony gladly rolled out the red carpet, providing tickets to a Broadway-themed show at the Orpheum for both of them, plus Brown’s two daughters.

“It was one of the best experiences that I can remember,” Brown gushed. “I’ve rediscovered music and it has awakened me to the fact that there is still so much good in my life. Martinic even came to say hello during intermission.”

“Witnessing the smiles and happiness was so special,” says Johnson. “He sat in the loge balcony and could see the majesty of the whole orchestra. What a treat to be part of allowing him to enjoy something he didn’t think was possible!”

Since then, Brown has attended two more concerts and looks forward to many more. His family says he is a “new man” and credits his positive new perspective on life to that memorable little concert in their living room.

“Watching him experience that in our home was so emotional,” Heather recalls. “We know he would not have this joyful outlook without the dedication and compassion of his care team and those musicians.”

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