2018-09-06 / Life in Leelanau

1883 tornado has roots today in Hansen’s therapeutic music

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff


DOUG HANSEN plays his guitar at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. on the anniversary of the F5 tornado that swept through the town 135 years ago. DOUG HANSEN plays his guitar at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. on the anniversary of the F5 tornado that swept through the town 135 years ago. It was a perfect storm of sorts: An anniversary of a devastating tornado of long ago, a modern-day medical research facility, and a musician whose love for music helps patients of all sorts.

Lake Leelanau resident Doug Hansen is the musician. His connection to the other two pieces of the puzzle clicked into place when his daughter was working on a research project on the family’s history for her sixth grade class.

She discovered that her father’s great-grandfather was Nels Henson (name later changed to Hansen) — one of the many victims of the 1883 Rochester, Minn., tornado that was responsible for 37 deaths and 200 injuries.

Along with the devastation, that 19th century storm brought winds of change to Rochester — the Mayo Clinic.

To care for the injured and dying, three doctors — William Mayo, Sr., William Mayo, Jr., and Charles Mayo — teamed up with the sisters of St. Francis to care for victims. Later, they formed what became St. Francis Hospital, which became the Mayo Clinic in 1919.

After learning his family history and seeing the connection between his work playing therapeutic music in hospitals and hospice settings, Hansen sought to research pieces of the Hansen puzzle. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do - knowing it was going to be the 135th anniversary,” he said.

So on Aug. 21, he brought his guitar and his musical talent to Rochester to play for patients at the Mayo Clinic in honor of the anniversary of the F5 tornado that claimed the life of Nels Hansen and so many others.

“For me, making those connections with my music and with my family — it was definitely a highlight,” Hansen said. “I was really honored to do that, and the response was incredible. For Rochester, it’s a big event.”

It was a big event for Hansen as well.

“The experience for me was really a culmination of things I do in my life,” he said. “I love playing classical guitar — that style is so calming. People always respond, and I can use that to help people in those (difficult) situations.”

Hansen started playing guitar at age 13 and has been a professional musician for 20 years. He started playing therapeutic music in 2010. At that time, while working at the Leelanau Children’s Center he noticed that music helped children who were upset.

“It calmed them,” he said.

He wanted to use his gift to help others. So in 2012, Hansen received his certification to provide musical therapy.

He has never looked back.

“The work I do is always humbling,” he said. “Being able to do the therapeutic music is humbling.”

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