Anthony Cook thought he was providing the entertainment at the Rochester Exchange Club Book of Golden Deeds award ceremony on Nov. 4. It's the type of thing the gifted vocalist often does, volunteering his talents throughout the community. But as he listened to the description of the evening's honoree, he began to suspect that might not be the only reason he was asked to attend this particular event.
"I thought, 'This sounds like me,'" Anthony tells us with a laugh. He adds that he was "completely surprised" to receive the award, which honors a "person who has given unselfishly for the betterment of his/her friends and neighbors without thought of acclaim or recognition." (Check and, clearly, check.) Those who know Anthony say it would be a challenge to find a more deserving recipient. Exchange Club President Danae Gaio tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin that Anthony uses his voice "to inspire, comfort, uplift and enrich individual's lives." According to friend and frequent accompanist Jane Belau, Anthony "is known for his voice but is recognized for his heart."
That voice and heart started working together soon after Anthony arrived in Rochester back in 2001. He'd come for a position as a knowledge management analyst in the Global Business Solutions unit at Mayo Clinic, but soon realized he had another job to do as well. "I had a strong desire to use my singing to minister to people who were sick," Anthony says. He got a chance to answer that call when a friend invited him to sing at a Seasons Hospice event. That led him to become a volunteer for the organization, providing care to dying patients, often in the form of a song at their bedside. Soon after, he also began accompanying Belau during some of her performances at the grand piano in Gonda Building. His most requested song and his favorite one to sing is "What a Wonderful World." The song "reminds me to be fully present and aware of the love, beauty, peace and hope that surround me," he says. "I could sing that song every day."
Anthony thinks it's "absolutely wonderful" that Mayo recognizes what he has seen firsthand: Music is good medicine. "Mayo believes in caring for the whole person, mind body and soul, and music is an essential part of that," he says. It's something he thinks about each time he sings. "I want to help take people's minds off whatever they're at Mayo for," he says. "My goal is to use music for a greater purpose, to comfort, encourage and inspire those in need."
The feedback he's received confirms he's doing just that. One woman wrote to Anthony after hearing him sing "What a Wonderful World" the week before her mother died. Her mother had requested the song be sung at her funeral, and the woman said it was "a healing experience" to hear Anthony "singing the song so beautifully." She wrote, "I wanted to thank you and let you know how much of a difference your efforts at comforting those at Mayo have made."
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