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ROLE MODEL

Using music as medicine

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After experiencing the therapeutic benefits of music first hand, former nurse Roxanna realised her singing could make other people feel better

“When I became a nurse I wanted to do that and sing.I enjoyed being a nurse so much but I loved singing too - so I combined them. I sang for my patients and it was a medicine for them,” says Roxanna, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose journey in creating healing music has included work in nursing.

She has come a long way in healing others through her care and her music, and her two passions have remained intertwined throughout her career.

Born in Iran, Roxanna grew up during a time when the country was ridden with conflict. “As a child, I saw revolution, I saw war - I thought ‘this is the end’,” she says.

During that challenging time she felt the healing power of music herself. Growing up listening to Olivia Newton-John and Julio Iglesias, she says: “Music was my escape. Just listening to music made me feel better.”

She then moved from Iran to Canada; explaining the decision to relocate to Toronto she says: “You have to make a change, you have to get up and make that change if you’re not happy.”

After training as a nurse, she later used music in a therapeutic way to treat patients. She took a medical class in Los Angeles and, after returning to Toronto, decided to pursue her nursing degree, qualifying in 2005. During her years in care she worked at a variety of locations including urgent care units, walk-in clinics and nursing homes.

It was while working as a nurse that Roxanna was inspired to take the next step towards working in a music career. One specific patient inspired her to pursue the dream that had always been there: “There was a man who was in my care for about three weeks,” Roxanna says. “Every time I cared for him he said ‘Just sing for me, that’s all I want you to do’. When the man was ready to go home, his father said, ‘You healed my son, now I want you to heal the world with your voice’.”

In her first album, Exotica, which was released on 8 July, Roxanna continues to try to help others by making music she hopes will help those who are going through tough times.

“Music is supposed to be happy, music is supposed to be about hope and about love. That’s what the music I sing is about,” she says. “I want others to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that there is hope.

“I recently lost my mother, and it was the most painful thing I ever experienced. But I was surrounded by friends and family. You can listen to my music and know you’re not alone, that you’re not the only one going through these hard times.”

Roxanna still sings for patients in hospitals. As a volunteer with Musicians On Call, a non-profit organisation in the US, she sings in hospital wards and nursing homes. “I saw the reactions of those patients - children who were crying when I came in and clapping when I was done singing,” she says. She enjoys helping others who cannot go out to listen to music, and is glad that she is able to bring the music to them.

Nursing has remained closed to Roxanna’s heart throughout her career: “I know most nurses think they’re working hard and are underpaid and unappreciated. But each nurse is somebody’s angel - they’re making patients live longer and making their lives just a little bit better.”

Of starting her career in music, she says: “Every person has a hidden talent - if you’re a nurse and you have a hidden talent, you should go for it. If you have a hope, if you have a dream, you should go for it and pursue it if you can.”

Sara Lawton

● For more information about Roxanna and Musicians on Call, visit www.roxannamusic.com, www.musiciansoncall.org

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