Steve Martin collaborates with other musicians to bring the sounds of joy and hope to hospital patients. | Photo courtesy Steve Martin

January 2, 2020

Giving Back — One Note at a Time

It’s every parent’s nightmare. Steve Martin and his wife, Mary, learned their oldest daughter — who was just nine at the time — had a cancerous brain tumor. The diagnosis was admittedly grim, but they held tightly to their faith and the medical team charged with saving their young Karly. After numerous hospital stays, surgeries, and multiple treatments of radiation and chemo, Karly made it and continues to be in remission, now at age 26.

“I had a burning in my heart to give back. I was so thankful,” stresses Steve. The professional musician and Adventist educator went straight to what he knows — music.

He found out about a nonprofit group called Sharing Notes. The Chicago-based program, which has been up and running since 2012, is founded on a mission of “improving quality of life for patients . . . through uplifting, live music performances,” often done right in their hospital rooms! Steve says it was a natural fit as he collaborated with the other musicians, giving their time and talents. Other than getting parking fees covered, no one is paid to perform. The North Shore Church member says it’s the least he can do.

“Every time I play the banjo or guitar [for the patients] and see the reaction of happy smiles, my soul is lifted to a whole new level, knowing that I was able to make a positive difference,” Steve expresses passionately. He sees it as his way to give back, and his goal is to make each performance personal.

“When it comes to music, the song that speaks to their heart is what I want to give them,” he says.

Steve tells of one time in particular when he and a singer were performing in Northwestern Hospital’s cardiac care unit for a woman in her mid-20s. She requested the Beatle’s song, “Hey, Jude.” Steve admits he had never played that on his banjo, but he and the singer were game and jumped into the catchy melody.

“When we finished, I looked up to see tears in her eyes. She repeatedly thanked us.”

Steve explains how the woman had recently given birth to a baby boy but, due to newly discovered heart issues, she had been rushed back into the hospital, with little time to spend with her newborn. His name was Jude. Just one touching story, amidst dozens, confesses Steve, who remembers his own family’s healing from music like it was yesterday.

“When we were in the hospital with Karly, we had a chaplain who would come in and play the guitar. Taking the attention off self and sickness . . ., the distraction was so relieving. It gave me an energy, a breath of fresh air, from those hours of the bad stuff,” admits Steve.

Now, “His healing can reach [others] through me. God has called me to do this,” says Steve. One note at a time.