Using Music to Spread Joy, Provide Respite

Talented young harpist shares her gift to help others

“Music is always in my head. It’s my life,” explained 16-year-old Arilyn Mitchell, seated in the atrium of Newport Hospital with her harp alongside her. The Newport teen has been sharing the music that enriches her life with the patients and families of Newport Hospital. 

On most Wednesdays, you’ll find Arilyn at the hospital, performing everything from Baroque music and jazz to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” for visitors and patients undergoing cancer treatment or rehabilitation.

She even caters to the smallest hospital visitors – welcoming children to try out the harp strings.

Arilyn, the youngest child of a Navy family, studies under the principal harpist for the Metropolitan Opera and has secured positions with a number of youth orchestras. She plans to be a concert harpist.  

“I just like to be able to spread joy and bring a little bit of respite to people who hear my music,” she said. “It really hits me how I’ve affected some people.”

In addition to Newport Hospital, Arilyn has volunteered at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, sharing her musical talent since the young age of 11. 

The harpist recalls one day when she had just finished playing in Newport Hospital’s Lifespan Cancer Institute and the Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center and was heading down to the cafeteria for lunch. While in the elevator with her mom, Kimberly, and her Venus Aria concert grand harp, a woman approached Arilyn and explained that it was her mother’s first day of chemotherapy. She said that her mother had been very nervous, but Arilyn’s playing helped to relax her. 

Despite stories like this, Arilyn maintains she’s the one benefiting from the experience, and thinks she’ll always volunteer in some capacity.

“Just knowing I’ve brought people happiness and seeing how sometimes their eyes light up when they hear me play. It feeds the soul,” she said. “I’m just here playing a harp. But knowing that I’m touching people in that way – it’s really magical.”