Georgia teen uses music to ease cancer patients' anxiety

- Inside the Winship Cancer Institute infusion center at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital,

Christopher Wang, 17, takes his viola out of its case, for an impromptu concert.

Near the nurses’ station, he plays for the patients tucked behind privacy curtains, searching for hope, maybe even healing, in a drip.

Wang, a rising senior at Norcross High School and member of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, has been playing Emory Saint Joseph's for a year. 

"My first time, I got really nervous, because there are really good acoustics in the hospital," Wang says.  " It's really loud, and there are tall ceilings. So, when I play the first note, even I am surprised and it kinds of shocks everyone there. But, then, they really understand, they listen to my music and they get into it."

Wang wears scrubs because he also helps out with the hospital's robotics program, and transports patients as a "VolunTeen," or teen volunteer. 

This is his first time playing for cancer patients.

"And these people really seem like they need it, which is really touching for me," he says.  "So, it gives me the motivation to keep doing it."

Tobey Kaye, who used to volunteer here, is now a patient.

She says she's grateful for Wang's company today.

"You know you're not thinking about yourself," Kaye says.  "You're thinking about what's going on, and what he's playing, and it makes you relax."

Sometimes, Wang says, people will pull out their cellphone and record him.

"They're just, they don't really expect that kind of treatment at a lot of hospitals," he says.

Wang didn't expect to love the viola as much as he does. 

He picked it up after learning to play the piano, and the oboe, drawn by its human-like sound. 

But, he says, it's not the instrument many musicians would pick,

"We're always told that violas are imperfect instruments," Wang explains.  "They're not known as well. They're 6 inches shorter than they should be, in order to be acoustically perfect."

But that "imperfection" is exactly what draws Wang back to the viola.

"You can really find a lot of beauty in how human it can sound, and how easily it can connect with other people," he says.

The viola is like life: not perfect, sometimes really hard.

But, it's also, in so many ways, beautiful.

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