Sunday, October 4, 2009

Music Community

Musicians on Call: Have a heart, but not the knowledge of the healing power of music

I learned about an organization called Musicians on Call, who donate live and recorded music to hospitals. The mission statement reads: "Musicians on Call brings live and recorded music to the bedside of patients in healthcare facilities. Musicians on Call uses music to promote and complement the healing process of patients, families and caregivers."

While this might be a heartfelt effort, what I could glean from the organization's website was that the music provided falls into country, rock, and pop music. There are no sound healers or music therapists on the board of directors or on the staff for this organization. This concerns me because country, pop and rock music might actually interfere with the healing process with invasive lyrics, a back beat (with pop and rock), which would not be beneficial to someone suffering from a heart condition. And some rock music might cause depression, either from nostalgia or negative/angry lyrics in some cases.

Also by glancing at the companies mentioned under staff and board members, it seems that this is the music industry's attempt to do good by helping hospital patients with music. Yet, from my own experiences as a music journalist and musician, the music industry is the last place I would expect healing effects of music. Though maybe it brings excitement to hospital patients when a well-known musicians shows up to perform at their bedside. And it is a musician's way of giving back to the community, but I would suggest instead musicians perform at benefits to raise funds for people without health insurance, if they want to assist patients. Leave the bedside music for the experts in this field.

Of course, if Yo-Yo Ma showed up at someone's bedside that would be a different story, since cello music can be healing, especially Bach's music. Jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan also has experience and intuitive talents to perform bedside music.

I think that Musicians on Call, might have good intentions, but without discernment of what a hospital patient truly needs, untrained bedside musicians could cause more harm than good to a patient's wellbeing. The staff and founders of Musicians on Call need to research the healing effects of music, and what types of music bring the most comfort to a recovering patient. While popular genres of music bring familiarity to a patient, I think that acoustic, instrumental music works best. Slow, simple and soothing music would be best for eliminating the stress caused by hospital settings. I would recommend vocables instead of lyrics, and that the musician follows the flow of the patient, instead of playing hit songs or what they feel like playing. This is not about giving autographs to hospital patients, but building immune systems in a toxic environment and providing relaxing music so patients can get well rested.

Musicians on Call needs to ask, if what they are doing is best for publicity for well-known musicians and kudos for themselves, or if they truly desire to assist hospital patients in their recovery. Then the staff and founders of Musicians on Call need to interview the experts such as Joshua Leeds, Marjorie de Muynck, music therapists, founders of bedside music schools and others familiar with patients' needs in a hospital setting.

And I encourage any sound healers, trained bedside musicians and music therapists to contact this organization and see if they can steer it in the right direction. Yes, music can do wonders in a hospital setting, but the wrong music can cause more harm to a patient, especially one with a fragile heart.

Threshold choirs have performed at bedsides of patients and also in hospices. To learn more visit,

For more information about Musicians on Call, go to

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