By Wendi Winters, email@example.com
Wellness House of Annapolis is normally a very quiet place. Unless Bob Sima is there. Once a month for the past two years, the Davidsonville musician has performed concerts for cancer patients.
“His lyrics are amazing,” said Betty Rounsaville, a breast cancer survivor. “I feel peaceful, connected and joyful. This is like musical yoga.”
Sima, 47, is a self-taught songwriter and guitarist with a growing following. Rather than playing at crowded bars, he seeks out alternative venues — house concerts, churches, temples and festivals. His fourth CD, putalittlemoreloveintheworld, was released in March.
Staff members and volunteers at Wellness House provide services and programs to people of all ages touched by cancer. It was founded by Dr. Kelly Sullivan, who realized her patients had no peaceful place to go between doctors’ appointments and surgical procedures. Services at Wellness House include support groups, yoga, reiki and art classes. All are provided free.
In a small, second-story room, Sima attracts a crowd to his performance Monday. Norma Pace of Arnold, who is battling lung cancer, was looking forward to attending her second concert. She’d stayed after her late-morning chair yoga class for the 1 p.m. event. Dianne Fluitt of Severn was accompanied by her daughter, Crofton resident Dionne Clark. Other audience members arrived with breathing apparatus, bundled in blankets or wearing baseball caps to camouflage the side effects of cancer therapy.
The crowd in the room had grown to nearly 20, mostly women, when Sima bounced in, carrying two guitar cases. He began his 75-minute concert with simple yoga-like breathing exercises. “That’s the Chi, the life force, going through you now,” he said, encouraging them to breathe in and out to the rhythm of the music.
“If you can find me in the silence, I’ll be breathing,” Sima sang. The audience began to sing with him. “I’m awake, I’m alive, I’m here!” The audience sang the chorus over and over, getting louder each time. They started to clap to the beat. Several took off their shoes and softly stomped their bare feet.
“I just wanted to veg and let go,” said Lance Hoge of Annapolis, who has been to four Sima concerts. “This place is great. The gates open into a whole different world.” Hoge had just come from a doctor’s office where he underwent a CT scan of his rare cancer, adenocarcinoma of the gastroesophageal junction.
“When the center of you meets the center of me,” Sima told Hoge and the others, “we take all the suffering away from this place. When the peace inside of you meets the peace inside of me, the war is over before it can start.”
His songs, Sima explained, draw on many ancient traditions, including the Bible and Quran. Sima bantered through some of the songs or improvised when he forgot the words.
“I can’t not be here,” he said. “It’s a compulsion.”
The first time he visited Wellness House was because he wanted to bring his music to places “where people needed it worse than I do,” he said. “They come here and they forget about the thing that brought them or their family member here, the cancer.”