Volunteer pianist's return to cancer hospital is music to patients' ears

A longtime volunteer at Smilow Cancer Hospital returned to many smiles after a hiatus because of the pandemic. But he isn't spending time with doctors and nurses -- he's playing the baby grand piano in the lobby.
Tom Ciancia started volunteering his time with Yale New Haven Hospital in 2014 and played there nearly every week -- until March 2020, when the pandemic shut down all volunteer services.
"Countless people come over as they're passing by thanking me for playing or telling me how much they're enjoying it," Ciancia said. "And that's very rewarding."
Especially since Ciancia knows what patients' loved ones might be going through. He lost his mother to cancer in 1978, sometimes spending 20 hours a day at a hospital, isolated and in pain.
"If I could alleviate somebody's stress—because I remember what that was like going through—you know, why not?" he said.
During the shutdown, he found ways to still give back, like recording videos for grateful patients. But now he's back in person and is bringing with him a chorus of smiles.
"It's been very welcoming. I think people are happy to see some sense of normalcy, and for me it is and probably for them it is too," says Ciancia.
Hospital officials say all volunteers must be vaccinated and complete new training regarding COVID-19 guidelines before they return.