top of page

Regina Avner, LCSW

In the Summer of 2019 I was invited by Mamie McIndoe, Associate Director Care Experience to join the Auxiliary of Elmhurst Hospital. I was retired from Elmhurst Hospital for almost two years after a 35 year career as a Medical Social Worker/Supervisor. I was also reviving my piano skills and was beginning to play in public at Mount Sinai Hospital/ Union Square Atrium as a Visiting Artist, as I’ve continued to do weekly to this day.

During my years as a social worker I’ve always enjoyed playing the piano for patients and donating time and support to particular populations of patients as the need arose. Among those was a benefit performance on behalf of Renal Patients. By far my favorite performing experience came during my earlier years at Elmhurst Hospital in the midst of the AIDS crisis. We put on a variety show and I played classical pieces for the AIDS patients in our original auditorium located on the second floor of our hospital. The patients really got involved in the classical pieces that I played and were very curious asking many interesting questions about the music and piano playing. This meant so much to me knowing that I had touched their lives this way and was especially poignant because at that time AIDS was a disease that had a stigma as well as a poor prognosis. I was part of helping these patients forget their diagnosis and share the transformation that music brings.

As the years moved along I continued to play occasionally at Elmhurst but life and my responsibilities as a social work supervisor eventually took priority over the piano. I have said that during my last 10 years as a social worker the only keyboard that my fingers touched belonged to a computer.

Upon retiring I vowed to return to the piano, which required patience, faith, perseverance and love. I was surprised at how difficult it was to get back the piano technique I had when I was younger but the discipline I acquired throughout my working years was transferred to my practicing.

Joining the Elmhurst Auxiliary in the Summer of 2019 allowed me to return to my professional roots bringing music to a diverse cultural community. What is special about Elmhurst Hospital is that the hospital is committed to serving everyone who needs care on all levels regardless of ability to pay as well as having the most diverse patient population in the world. This is quite an exciting place. And for 35 years while working at Elmhurst this was my home away from home. So of course I joined the Auxiliary. I have also recruited my husband who is now a member. Upon returning as an Auxiliary member and Co-Treasurer I was able to meet new people as well as reconnect with my former colleagues and I have found a second career sharing my love of playing music. When Mamie recruited me to join, it became clear that the ambience of the public areas could be enhanced by my piano playing. To accomplish this the Auxiliary allocated funds to purchase a digital piano. Due to the support of the Auxiliary I have been playing at Elmhurst Hospital throughout most of the pandemic from 2020 to the present. I’ve played at many events the hospital has had throughout the years: Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pandemic Candlelight Vigil, 9/11 20th Commemoration, The Walkway of Honor Ceremonies and more to come. I can also be heard playing in the Elmhurst Lobby on most Thursdays. I play a variety of musical selections spanning many centuries and composers. I always try to include a few pieces by Scott Joplin, The King of Ragtime for 2 reasons: playing Joplin was vital to regaining my piano skills and most importantly his music is simply beautiful and needs to be heard by everyone.

I’ve been told that the music that I play in the lobby on Thursdays transforms the atmosphere by simultaneously calming and energizing people. Throughout my life I’ve always enjoyed sharing my music with the public in different venues to see the positive effect it has on people.

This is the point of what I do: touching people through music.

Playing at Elmhurst Vigil

bottom of page