The lobby of Ochsner’s main campus is teeming with people: a young child in a wheelchair joyously holds a bouquet of flowers, a white-haired woman silently weeps, a family carries a picnic basket and a toddler firmly holds onto his parent’s hand. And through it all music lilts and envelops all who pass by as volunteer pianist Steve Sutton plays.
Sutton began piano at an early age and played with groups throughout his high school and college years. When he graduated from college with a degree in philosophy he took a managerial job at K&B.
“I quickly realized I didn’t want to spend a lifetime in a purple uniform so I went back to school,” he says.
Sutton studied accounting and became a certified public accountant, a career he says he thoroughly loved. Among other employers, he worked for Entergy, helping them do their taxes. However, during this time his love of performing slipped into hibernation.
“I had family obligations and two children to put through private school,” he says.
But an empty nest changed all that and Sutton once again began playing. He first performed at his church, Grace Episcopal, before moving into a nine-year gig at All Souls Church and Community Center in the 9th Ward. Now he’s retired and plays all around the city, some paid gigs, but mostly volunteer ones like his performances in Ochsner’s lobby.
“I love the expressions on people’s faces and being able to put a smile on their faces,” he says. “The people here are so thankful and gracious. And they (Ochsner) have a Yamaha grand piano that’s just a joy to sit down and play.”
His repertoire includes everything from the great American songbook to a whole set of gospel tunes. Mostly people walk on by engrossed in their moments of grief and concern, but some gather and listen, request songs or just take a moment to relax and reflect.
“I should keep a notebook with all the things people share,” he says. “It’s a delight to be a part of this program.”
Ochsner says having Sutton there is all about creating a culture that supports patients and families through the stresses caused by illness, hospitalization and medical visits.
"Our volunteer piano players share their talents to provide music to patients, guests and staff as their contribution to a healing healthcare environment,” says Katie Daher, director of Ochsner’s patient-centered care. “Their music brings joy and comfort to others.”
At 93 years old, Dorothy Egan is no stranger to this hospital but today she’s only here to pick up some glasses and indulge in a pastry.
“He’s so good isn’t he?” she says wiping a crumb from her mouth “It’s great muffin-munching music.”
For more information about volunteering at Ochsner, please call (504) 842-5085 or visit https://www.ochsner.org/giving/volunteer."