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Music: Soothing Sounds, Good Medicine

Posted By Vanderbilt Magazine On August 5, 2009 @ 2:52 pm In Summer 2009, The Mind's Eye | No Comments

Music has been shown to offer distraction from pain for the seriously ill, as well as reduce stress and increase social interaction for patients and their families. Music in the Clinic (M.I.C.) is a volunteer program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center that connects patients with this healing power of music. At the same time, it connects Vanderbilt students with their community.

The program draws volunteers from all walks of musical life, including Music Row professionals, Nashville Symphony Orchestra members and, in increasing numbers, Vanderbilt students. According to Blair School of Music student Madeline Myers, volunteer coordinator for the program, 40 individual Blair musicians and ensembles have played at the clinic this year alone. In fact, Myers estimates that 30 percent of all Blair students have participated this year in M.I.C. and Vanderbilt Music Day. The latter features Blair and non-Blair students, as well as student ensembles like the Swingin’ Dores and the Dodecs, performing at the Vanderbilt Children’s Clinic.

Student Madeline Myers is volunteer coordinator for Music in the Clinic, which provides musicians to play  for cancer patients and at the  Children’s Hospital.

Student Madeline Myers is volunteer coordinator for Music in the Clinic, which provides musicians to play for cancer patients and at the Children’s Hospital.

“They aren’t just making music; they are making a difference.”

~ Madeline Myers

“Music in the Clinic provides such a meaningful way for student musicians to be engaged in service to their world,” says Myers, a junior majoring in music composition/theory with a minor in piano performance. “They aren’t just making music; they are making a difference.”

That difference is seen—and heard—daily at the clinic. “Patients are here for many hours of chemotherapy and other treatments,” says Kim Hunter, the clinic’s director of patient and family support services. “Music in the Clinic creates a wonderful environment of caring and healing for both the patients and their families.”

Most of the music is presented one-on-one in a patient’s room; this level of volunteerism requires physical screening and specific training in musical therapy practices. Thanks to the new Volunteer Services Tier System, however, other volunteer performance options are available too, including performing in the clinic’s public areas on an occasional basis. Blair vocal, harp, flute, piano, brass and string students have performed at the clinic. The Vanderbilt Community Chorus and Vanderbilt Steel Bands also have participated.

“Music in the Clinic doesn’t just give me an opportunity to serve others through music,” says Myers. “Rather, it becomes a vehicle for so many others to volunteer. By the time I graduate, I hope the program is an integral part of the medical center. I’d like to visit Vanderbilt in 20 years and find students still walking over to the VICC or Children’s Hospital to play for patients.”


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