Suburban man takes healing power of music to area nursing homes


LAKE GENEVA, Ill. — A Lake Geneva realtor discovered his musical gifts carried healing power beyond anything he could have imagined.

For the last few months, Ryan Carney has carried his cello into numerous senior care facilities to play for the residents. It’s an act of kindness inspired by his late father Seamus Carney who battled terminal brain cancer. The cancer stole his longevity and ability to speak. It was only through hearing familiar songs that his father was able to retrace the words and lyrics that once drifted away.

“I’m not a doctor,” Ryan Carney said. “But I have witnessed that when language is barricaded by a disease, music can penetrate it like nothing else.” The grief of losing his father was only compounded by the death of his stepson three years later. It was the moment that Ryan Carney decided to join He said he wanted to give more to helping make the world a better place in honor of his loved ones.

Drawing on his rich music background, he began randomly playing his cello at senior care homes in hopes that the music would also touch others with cognitive decline.

It was a hit with residents packing the foyers to hear him play.

“When I get to help people trigger that chemistry in their heads through music, it is the absolute greatest feeling in the world,” he said.

At a recent visit to Bickford Senior Living in St. Charles, a 100-year-old resident Mary Morton rolled her chair up to the piano to accompany Ryan Carney’s cello. Without a single sheet of music, Morton played song after song, much to the amazement of those watching.

“It is unbelievable how hearing music stimulates her mind,” her son Bruce Morton said. “It’s the trigger to all those long-term memories. The music comes in her head and right out her fingers.”

Ryan Carney has received praise not only from the residents but others like Susan Frances who wrote, “Since my friend Patricia’s stroke, she has not been able to speak but through music, she has begun to understand words! She remembers your cello playing. It is a gift to hear you.”

Ryan Carney has no plans of stopping and promises to continue playing at as many senior care homes as possible.

“I walk out of here and I feel like I’ve really helped people accomplish something special,” he said.

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