Health Check: Teen plays harp for Newport Hospital patients

Arilyn Mitchell, a high school junior, brings beautiful music to patients at Newport Hospital. (WJAR)

A Newport teenager brings beautiful music to patients at Newport Hospital.

Her name is Arilyn Mitchell, who comes from a musical family.

By the time she was 7 years old, Mitchell had started playing the flute. Two years later, she said she realized that wasn’t her instrument, so she reached for the smaller Celtic harp.

She realized she would have to go big in order to play in an orchestra. So, at the age of 11, Mitchell began playing the much larger peddle harp. And she loves it.

Now, at age 16, she plays every Wednesday at Newport Hospital.

"It's different to have a volunteer come in and say they want to play the harp, that's for sure,” Lisa Coble, director of volunteer services at the hospital, said. “We love it.”

Mitchell and her mom, Kim, lug around a massive harp from unit to unit.

"I play in the cancer center, I play in the in-patient wound care, and even if I'm up there for just an hour, I'm hoping it brings just a little bit of respite for whatever they're going through," Mitchell said.

"It's a mood booster," Maria Cardi, who has to undergo daily infusions there, said. "It just really thrills me and when she plays the song, 'Someone to Watch Over Me,' I begin to sing it and if someone else is in the room with me, they begin to join me."

Mitchell already has a pretty impressive resume. She has one teacher in Boston, and also studies in New York City with Emmanuel Ceysson, who is the principle harpist of the Metropolitan Opera. She also recently earned a spot on the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

Since the harp is not a typical instrument one would see on a patient floor, she gets a lot of questions.

"My favorite is, ‘Do the pedals dampen the sound?’” Mitchell said. “They don't. They actually change the pitch."

The high school junior plans on making a living strumming the harp.

"A symphony somewhere or an opera. I really love opera," Mitchell said. “I mean, they both make my heart sing.”

Meanwhile, Mitchell is happy entertaining patients at Newport Hospital.

"It brings me joy to be able to give my music to other people, to share my music because I know that a lot of the patients here are probably going through a rough time," she said.

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