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Wisconsin woman plays harp for hospital patients

  • Associated Press
  • May 30, 2014 - 10:55 AM

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. — A Wisconsin woman is fulfilling her lifelong goal of becoming a harpist in part by playing for patients at a Wisconsin Rapids hospital.

Sue Popelka wanted to take harp lessons when she was 8 years old but she says her family couldn't afford it, so she took piano lessons instead.

She started playing the harp three years ago after her mother died of cancer, Daily Tribune Media reported (http://wrtnews.co/1wzy1Yg ) Thursday.

"I wish I could have played something that could have helped her," Popelka said. "My mother was a wonderful lady who gave to everybody."

She's now an intern with the Music for Healing and Transition Program that includes a 45-hour internship and 80 hours of intensive training on the weekends in Minneapolis.

Popelka plays for two to six hospital patients during visits with her harp named Edna. She says she plays to let patients relax in the moment.

Last week, Popelka played for Carol Schmidt, a patient at the Riverview Medical Center.

"It kind of relaxes you," Schmidt said, adding: "Of course, I ain't the kind to get up and dance."

Popelka says she improvises many songs to make sure patients don't become attached to a single song unless the patients have a form of dementia, in which case she plays songs the patients could recognize.

"I always tell them, 'If you fall asleep, that's the best compliment you can give me,'" she said.

© 2014 Star Tribune