Sights and sounds in hospital foyers prove music therapy to the ears for Melbourne’s outpatients.

Entrance foyers at public hospitals are busy places. Not surprisingly most people walking through them are preoccupied and absorbed in their own thoughts. Some sight or sound out of the ordinary though can catch the attention of a few, make them pause, open up a wealth of possibilities for moving, even momentarily, out of the sphere of their immediate concerns.

It was like that between 10am and 2pm from May 5-9, 2014, when over 600 students from 10 Victorian schools played 52 hours of music at the Fifth Annual Schools’ Live Music Festival at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Their audiences were made up of outpatients coming to and from appointments, visitors, inpatients – either ambulant or in wheelchairs and often accompanied by family members or staff – along with volunteers, supporters and students waiting their turn to perform. Some people sat in chairs placed temporarily in the atrium section of the foyer. Others stood and watched from the side, smiling, nodding and applauding.

Anecdotal evidence points to the benefits of these festivals. For example, in a previous year an outpatient, who had received bad news from...