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ARS LYRICA collaborates with  MDAnderson Children’s Cancer Hospital 
and  CKW LUXE to deliver music to children with cancer


Ars Lyrica’s mission is to create a contemporary context for the expressive power of music while fostering a commitment to serve diverse communities, such as the one at the University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, through inventive and engaging programs. Music and medicine do not, at first, appear to be the natural partners that science is proving them to be. While music has long been recognized as an outlet for emotions, it is only recently that “…compelling evidence has been found that musical interventions can play a health-care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says  Daniel Levitin, author of the book, “This is Your Brain on Music.” 

Houston’s MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital and Baroque orchestra Ars Lyrica, with assistance from CKW LUXE, is tapping into this relationship between our bodies and music with a recorder program for pediatric cancer patients. Developed with MD Anderson’s Arts in Medicine Program, the recorder program embeds an Ars Lyrica musician, Pablo Moreno, into the hospital setting once a month to provide pediatric patients with free and accessible recorder lessons, available in both Spanish and English. 

For each visit, Moreno works with children, teens, and young adults to teach them how to play the recorder, while Melissa Sandoval, MT-BC, a board-certified music therapist at MD Anderson, addresses therapeutic goals during these lessons, such as diaphragmatic breathing. The goal of these sessions is to provide pediatric patients with an opportunity to learn basic music skills and help them feel comfortable in the hospital environment, while simultaneously working on respiration, posture, embouchure, and breathing techniques. Additionally, each patient receives their own recorder, recorder method book, and a music storybook that they can keep after the musician visit.  

Moreno says, “I think this program is beautiful because it connects these children to their own abilities and makes them feel empowered during this time of their lives. Patients travel from around the world for treatment, and I think that makes it more valuable because it becomes a cultural exchange as well.” 

Moreno’s favorite experience so far was with a teen patient.  Moreno used music from his favorite video game, The Legend of Zelda, as the hook. “He was one of the patients who needed the most assistance for breathing. After the lesson was over, Melissa measured his ability to sustain a breath and his breathing doubled in length from the beginning of the session. He kept the recorder. I heard he kept playing for days.”

This innovative collaboration between Ars Lyrica, MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, and CKW LUXE is providing enjoyable music learning experiences for young cancer patients and improving their health at the same time. Not only does music intervention play a health-care role in this setting for these children, it provides them with a beautiful challenge that will be with them for the rest of their lives.

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