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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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At Stafford Hospital, the halls are alive with the sound of music

The new player piano at Stafford Hospital.

It takes a couple of seconds as you enter Stafford Hospital to realize that the sound coming from the back of the lobby is the sound of a piano.

The music travels past the coffee bar, down the hallway to the gift shop and over the railing to the cafeteria below. The sound is soft but noticeable, meant to alter the way the hospital feels.

“It’s a chance for patients and families to have some soothing time,” said Cathy Yablonski, administrator.

The piano arrived this month as a gift of the volunteers in the Stafford Hospital Auxiliary. It was the auxiliary’s first major gift to the hospital and came at Yablonski’s suggestion.

She said she once worked in the Buffalo area at two hospitals that had pianos. She figured that the patients, visitors and staff at Stafford would enjoy one, and that the auxiliary would be able to point with pride to its gift.

“It creates a bit of a different environment,” she said.

Auxiliary members purchased the instrument locally for $8,900, said Frank Ringquist, auxiliary president. It is a baby grand player piano. A person can sit and play it, or it can be plugged to a wall socket for self-play. For now, the piano is turned on in the middle of each weekday. It has a built-in library of more than 500 songs, including seasonal, jazz, easy listening and spiritual music, Ringquist said.

To date, only the player function has been used, though Yablonski said the hospital also wants to unlock the keyboard and let community residents perform.

“At Christmas we have school groups come in,” she said. “I have this picture of the music teacher playing the piano, and the kids singing around it.”