Grammy winner playing music in Cedar Rapids hospital for years

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Middays on Friday, music drifts through the UnityPoint St. Luke's Helen G. Nassif Pavilion. An angelic sound that brings a little cheer to people having to spend part of their day in a hospital lobby.

Ron Levine plays mandolin at UnityPoint St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

"We hear the comments, though, from the patients and visitors who are sitting down there,” said Barbara Berns, the hospital’s volunteer coordinator. “They're just going, 'Wow! That is like a little piece of heaven.'"

The source isn't a well-hidden speaker, it's a well-hidden person, Ron Levine. You can find him up a floor, behind a bush, strumming a mandolin.

Ron's a volunteer who's been playing in this semi-secret spot for about two years now-- some of it spent keeping a secret of his own-- Ron is a 1981 Grammy award winning country artist.

Stunned? So we're people at the hospital.

"He's a very modest guy,” said Barbara. “We didn't find that out until after he started to volunteer for us."

Ron won the Grammy after playing Orange Blossom Special in the John Travolta film Urban Cowboy.

His career has been illustrious, playing alongside big names like Kenny Rogers or Conway Twitty. Ron's instrument of choice, a fiddle. But-- he doesn't play it these days. He can't.

"I have multiple sclerosis,” said Ron. “I lose it. It comes back. I lose it. I'm working on getting it back, now."

Ron was diagnosed about 30 years ago. Being a chronic disorder affecting the nervous system, progression was slow. MS forced him to put down the fiddle around four years ago-- so, he picked up the mandolin instead.

"It's the same strings as the violin,” said Ron. “I played guitar. So, if you play guitar and violin, it's a perfect fit."

…Perfect for Ron to relearn what his hands lost. It also means his weekly music sessions at the hospital double as musical therapy.

Each strum above and smile below gets Ron closer to finding a way to fiddle again. And you'd never know it. It's Ron's secret, hidden away just like him.