Music is Medicine for Ryan Brolliar

Oct 30, 2018
Kathleen Fitzgerald-Ellis

Don White probably didn’t expect someone to ask him, “What kind of music do you like?” as he waited in the lobby of the John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute (CCI) last Tuesday morning. Don’s response was, “Country and all classic rock,” and that got him a calming, acoustic rendition of “Hotel California” from musician Ryan Brolliar.

Ryan, once a patient himself, has a mission to play music in one hospital in each of the 50 states as a part of his “Music is Medicine” tour. His friends and a GoFundMe initiative helped him begin making his goal a reality. He set out this summer in his “Jambulance,” where he will live for the next several months on tour.

“There’s a lot more to life than I thought,” he said. Ryan quickly realized he wanted to use his gift of music to give back to others and help them in their time of need.

South Dakota was Ryan’s eighth stop on a tour that started in California, his home state. During a visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial the day before, someone recommended he make Regional Health Rapid City Hospital his stop in South Dakota.

Ryan spent time in the lobbies of the CCI, Home+ Hospice House and Rapid City Hospital, but he also sang individually to several patients receiving chemotherapy. His time with patients involved much more than just tunes; patients opened up to Ryan about their children, their illnesses, and their careers. 

“I have a peace about this,” Patricia Petersen told Ryan. Patricia’s request: “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band. “Oh, I can play that!” said Ryan. Patricia and Ryan had a lot to talk about. For instance, her son now lives in Hawaii and loves to surf; Ryan spent eight years as a surfing instructor for children.

Patricia is undergoing her third round of treatment. “Third time’s a charm,” she said. Ryan told Patricia he loved her positive spirit, and the two shared a hug before he moved on.

Ryan isn’t sure what he will do after his tour; perhaps he will write a book about his experience. But right now he’s focused on using his guitar and his voice to bring a little bit of joy to people across the United States. Next up: Nebraska.

Visit Ryan's GoFundMe page to learn more about his journey.