You hear him before you see him.
The melodic baritone drifts through the sterile corridors of Valencia’s Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.
The sound surprises no one. Most have gotten used to hearing Jared Axen, a registered nurse, who uses song to connect with his patients and help soothe them.
“It’s an incredible way to be able to bond with somebody,” said Axen, 26, who has worked at Henry Mayo for almost five years.
A former child performer who earned an associate's degree in music from Valencia’s College of the Canyons and had some private classical vocal training, Axen’s talent was exposed at the hospital quite by chance.
Patients who heard him as he walked the halls belting out old love songs and Broadway hits started to request he sing to them. Soon, serenading the sick became part of his daily rounds, gaining him the moniker “The Singing Nurse.”
Most of the patients who benefit from Axen’s crooning are seniors and the terminally ill. They typically request songs made popular by stars such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. They include the 1930s hit "I’ll be seeing you" and "Smile," but he also gets appeals for hymns.
“When patients are in pain, it gives them some distraction,” Axen said of his singing. “They may not necessarily be happy about their situation but it seems a little easier [for them[ to handle, a little easier to manage."
And it often lessens the need for pain medication and mood stabilizers “because they’re in higher spirits,” Axen said.
Axen’s supervisor, Sue Walroth, agreed that patients are more likely to feel “that someone cares about them … and the emotion and the feelings really come out when he sings,” Walroth said.
Norma Laskoske’s lips quivered as Axen gently held her and lulled her with the 1940s jazz standard "Time after Time." The 89-year-old, who is suffering from pneumonia and lung cancer, softly mouthed the words to the song, her eyes welling with tears.
“If he would come in 24 hours a day I think I’d be well and I’d be out of here but then I wouldn’t see him,” Laskoske said. “He has a beautiful, soothing voice and the nice thing about it is when he looks at you, you know he’s singing to you. It just pierces my heart.”
Brian Vanculenburg, 66, echoed Laskoske’s sentiments. He said Axen’s rendition of golden oldies, such as "Pennies from Heaven," really helped to lift his spirits and he enjoyed being able to discuss his love for music with “The Singing Nurse.”
“What I like is … he sings from deep down here,” Vanculenburg said as he gestured to his heart.
Times videographer Trishna Patel contributed to this report.