On any given Friday at the Warrior Café (in Building 62) at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, you can hear free, live music presented for the wounded warriors and others in attendance.
Carolyn Surrick, who plays the viola da gamba, began visiting the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Mologne House in November 2008, and was joined shortly thereafter by Sue Richards on the Celtic harp and Ginger Hildebrand, a classical guitar and violinist. Together, these three professional musicians make up the ensemble, “Trio Galilei.”
The trio’s repertoire ranges from Bach to traditional Scottish and Irish music. The music is offered in the hopes of extending peace to Soldiers and service members who may have had unsettling experiences or injuries during their time of service, said Surrick.
“It is calm, beautiful music,” she said. “Mothers find solace, Soldiers find peace, and they sometimes find a place to go in their mind that is more about beauty than war. They say it helps, and I believe them.”
Surrick said it is a small time commitment for the members of the ensemble to perform at the Warrior Café, but it can potentially have a big impact on an individual’s life.
“The theory is: We do what we can do,” she said. “As musicians, we practice every day. Why not practice in a place where it can change the world? Or at least change part of the world for warriors and their families.”
Shortly after they began performing on base, “Trio Galilei” found they began to form relationships with the wounded warriors and visitors there.
“We made friends with the patients and their families, the staff, and Pierre, the chef, who always had a smile and a hello for us,” said Surrick. “The music was so soothing that the Soldiers asked if we could come back at night to help them fall asleep. That wasn’t possible, so we made them a CD.”
Surrick and “Trio Galilei” pulled a few strings within their professional circles and found collaborators who were willing to donate their services to record and produce their CD, “Above and Beyond.” The first 2,000 disks were manufactured for free, and then the trio used the proceeds from their other concerts to fund the continued production and distribution of their music on base. Over the past few years, Hildebrand estimates they have given away approximately 3,000 CDs to the wounded warriors and visitors here.
Army Specialist Greg MacDonald, a wounded warrior and resident on base, has attended the group’s performances at the Warrior Café for the past three months, and said he has found the trio’s music to be very comforting.
“I am here mostly for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and I found their music [to be] very calm and soothing,” said MacDonald. “I have their CD and listen to it every night, and it helps me sleep better.”
MacDonald added that, just like the name of their CD, the trio goes ‘above and beyond’ by coming to perform on base every week.
“They are very nice and kind,” he said. “Not only do they drive out of their way to play here every Friday, but they have used their money to produce books and CDs to give away for free.”
“Mrs. Hildebrand even lent me one of her guitars to practice on until I could get my own, and she has given me a 30-45 minute lesson on the guitar every Friday for the past few months.”
However, after performing for nearly four years at the café, Surrick has found that the wounded warriors are not the only ones who benefit from these weekly visits.
“The days that I have spent with these men and women, and their families have completely changed my life,” said Surrick. “To all of them, I send my best wishes, and thanks.”
“Trio Galilei” performs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday at the Warrior Café. All wounded warriors, staff and visitors are welcomed and encouraged to attend.