Explore the Environmental Music Program


“It was a very pleasant surprise to hear piano music gently ringing through the space. Very calming, restorative, it has already changed my day in a very positive way.”

- a patient commenting on the environmental music in the hallway

Environmental Music

The objective of an environmental musician is to set the mood of the lobby or lounge, and positively affect the moods of those who hear the music. The purpose of environmental music is to create a restful and pleasant atmosphere, and to not draw attention to the musician. An environmental musician’s focus is not on performance, but on service to the listeners in the environment. Based on the reaction of the listeners, environmental musicians attempt to adjust the style of their music based on the situation, if necessary. The music’s effects will differ slightly for each person who is present, but the hope is to enable people to relax and drift into their own thoughts and moods. Live musicians also provide a warm and caring presence in what may otherwise be a cold and sterile environment. Live music has been shown to lessen stress and anxiety, and music tends to soften the environment and provide a distraction from the listener's immediate concerns.

The Mass General Environmental Music program is always looking for talented and generous volunteer musicians who are interested in using their gifts to positively impact the day of the many people in our hospital community.

Music Therapy

“Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals for people of all ages and ability levels within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapists develop music therapy treatment plans specific to the needs and strengths of the client who may be seen individually or in groups. Music therapy treatment plans are individualized for each client. The goals, objectives, and potential strategies of the music therapy services are appropriate for the client and setting. The music therapy interventions may include music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, singing, music performance, learning through music, music combined with other arts, music-assisted relaxation, music-based patient education, electronic music technology, adapted music intervention, and movement to music.”

- The American Music Therapy Association

Qualifications for Volunteers

We are looking for highly-skilled, sensitive musicians! There are two available options for volunteering, and both tracks require an audition:

  • Special event volunteer. These volunteers participate in the concert series programming, which are events held in various areas of the hospital; musicians typically play a one hour set. These events are scheduled throughout the year and volunteers come in on an as-needed basis.
  • Weekly volunteer. These volunteers play in public spaces and on patient floors. This track requires a regular, scheduled commitment. This part of the program requires a short process to become a volunteer of the hospital, including a health screening, background check, and basic orientation.

You must be able to play your instrument with few to no mistakes for at least 30 minutes. We are open to all styles and genres, if the music is positive and uplifting, and you can modulate volume and intensity to fit the environment you are playing in. We are always available to provide guidance and support in this area.


  • Mastery of primary instrument. Musicians must be at an advanced skill level; musicians need to be able to play their instrument with skill and sensitivity while, at the same time, paying close attention to patients and staff responses.
  • Ability to perform with background noise and distractions.
  • Strong understanding of the difference between music therapy and environmental music.
  • Comfortable meeting new people and interacting with all types of patients.
  • Insight, awareness, and sensitivity to patient experience and needs, including music that is: Rhythmically and melodically steady and repetitive; harmonically and tonally major or neutral in nature, excluding extreme high tones or levels of dissonance; no louder than Mezzo in volume; adaptable to meet the needs of listeners based on facial expressions, body gestures, and verbal request.
  • Ability to observe the age, moods, and reactions of the listeners and, if necessary, adjust the style and/or tempo of the piece while performing.
  • Refrain from use of content that is: Racially, sexually, ethically, or religiously offensive; pertaining to cancer, death, suicide, violence, or somehow psychologically aggravating; overtly promoting a religious agenda.
  • Ability to take direction and respond to supervisor feedback on aspects of performance including feel, volume, and content.

Person playing the harp in the Yawkey building.Preferred Instruments:

  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Harp
  • Voice and Guitar (with special awareness regarding lyric content)

A high level of expertise is required for the following instruments:

  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello

If you do not see your instrument listed but feel that your music could complement the program, please contact us.

We hope that you will consider becoming one of our volunteers! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Volunteer Logistics

Volunteer Orientation

After being accepted into the Environmental Music Program as a weekly volunteer, please visit the Mass General Volunteer page to sign up for an orientation session. Once you are signed up for a session, the process before you can start typically takes 3-4 weeks. At orientation, you will be asked to sign up for an interview with the volunteer department. Although you have been accepted into the Environmental Music Program, an appointment is still needed to complete the CORI in person and submit immunization records (MMR and TB tests) for the health screening. After completing the health screening, you will be given an ID badge and will then be cleared to start. A volunteer jacket is not required for this program.


Volunteer shifts are Mondays - Fridays: 9:00am—5:00pm. Once you have completed the necessary procedures to becoming an official Mass General volunteer, please contact lkubicek1@partners.org with your availability, preferred performance schedule, and the length of your program. You should be able to perform at Mass General at least once a week.


A 30-50-minute program of repertoire is preferred. Your performance set should be relaxing, pleasant, and uplifting. Simple and melodic/harmonic music generally works best. You should avoid pieces with fast tempos and/or dissonance because it may cause stress. Although you may have the skills to perform complex pieces, a medical setting is not the place for it. At the same time, please be sure that your program set is practiced and polished. Any style of music is welcome, but you should avoid non-secular pieces and songs that may trigger sad memories (i.e. Amazing Grace). If you are a vocalist, you will need to be especially aware of lyric content. Do not include any songs with expletives, religious or political themes, or triggering/offensive lyrics. If you have any questions regarding repertoire, please contact us at lkubicek1@partners.org.

Set-Up Details

You will need to bring your instrument, music, and music stand with you every time you perform. If you will need a chair, please let us know beforehand. Mass General has an upright piano and keyboard that you may use. While playing, your other belongings can either be stored in the lockers designated for Mass General volunteers or placed near you against the wall or in a corner. If your instrument requires more than a minute to tune, please do so before arriving for your volunteer shift.

Locations Visited

Volunteers will initially play in outpatient settings including:

  • Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, floors 6-9
  • Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, Cancer Support & Education Hub, floor 7
  • Lunder Building, Lower Level 3 Radiation Oncology

Once volunteers feel comfortable performing in outpatient areas, additional locations may include:

  • Main Lobby
  • Inpatient Cancer Floors
  • Inpatient Pediatrics

Standards of Conduct

Volunteers must adhere to all Massachusetts General Hospital policies and procedures, including:

  • Infection control
  • Patient confidentially and procedures: Respect patient confidentiality and privacy in adherence to HIPAA policies; do not exchange personal information with patients; do not provide any financial assistance or donate services to patients and their families; do not offer medical advice, personal opinions, therapeutic advice, or assumptions; do not provide physical patient care (i.e. lifting).

Note that Massachusetts General Hospital does not permit:

  • Solicitation for personal agendas and outside groups, including but not limited to product sales and promotion of outside events
  • Photography or videography on premises without express permission from Mass General for every occurrence
  • Use of the Mass General name or logo without express permission from Mass General for every use
  • Moving furniture or pieces of equipment
  • Guests of musicians, as our programming is for the benefit of our patients and not open to the public

Additional Helpful Information

  • Transportation: Volunteers can receive free parking if they park at the Charles River Plaza underground garage and validate their ticket at the Volunteer Office in the Gray/Bigelow Basement, Suite 015.
  • Shuttles
  • Cafeterias and Cafés
  • Gardens and Outdoor Spaces
  • Volunteer Sign-In: Volunteers can sign in for their shift at the monitor in the Volunteer Office or behind the information desk in the Yawkey Center.

Music Therapy Resources

Scope of Music Therapy Practice

Scope of Music Therapy Practice

Learn more about music therapy from the American Music Therapy Association.

Pediatric Music Therapy

Pediatric Music Therapy

Learn about music therapy at Mass General for Children.

Music Therapy at the Cancer Center

Music Therapy at the Cancer Center

Music therapy is offered through the Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program.

Music Therapy Internship

Music Therapy Internship

Learn about our Music Therapy Internship for Berklee College of Music students.