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Final Chorus: Louis Armstrong: Music Heals

“Throughout history,” Dr. Jacek Mostwin of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions notes, “music has played an important role in healing. The ancient Greeks often played music to restore health to a person whose mental and physical harmony were out of tune.” Louis Armstrong knew and cared a lot about the restorative powers of music. He once sent a wide range of recordings-not only jazz-to the obstetrics division of a New Orleans Hospital to help ease the rhythms of birth. Later, when Louis was a patient at New York’s Beth Israel hospital, he was very impressed with the medical staff and became interested in setting up a program of music therapy for children.

His generosity of spirit was not limited to his music: “I want to start a foundation to give back to people some of the goodness I’ve had from them all of these years,” the trumpeter once said. And so, as part of Armstrong’s living legacy, the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation-powered by Phoebe Jacobs, a longtime friend of Louis and Lucille Armstrong–established the Louis and Lucille Armstrong Music Therapy Program at Beth Israel Hospital 11 years ago.

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.