Music and Health Care: An Exploration of the Health Benefits of Great Art
This past spring, a 23-year-old, HIV-infected mother of two, who had spent the last three years off her medications, said something that thrilled the doctor who has known her since she was one. “So what meds do you think I should be taking? Let’s see if we can work it into my schedule, and I would also like to make an appointment for therapy tomorrow.” When the doctor asked her why she had changed her mind, she replied, “Those kids said things in the songs I just heard that perfectly express so many of the things I feel but have never been able to articulate clearly. I’m ready to stand up and fight. I’m ready to do this.” This young woman had been in the audience at a culminating performance of a three-month songwriting workshop run by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute as part of its Musical Connections program. The workshop is one of many activities that took place last season in partnership with this major New York City hospital.
Musical Connections brings free interactive performances, creative projects, and artist residencies to those in acute need in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, healthcare settings, and senior service organizations. In the 2011‒2012 season, the program will reach 8,000 people through programming created in partnership with host organization staff, government agencies, and first-class musicians from diverse musical genres.
Initial evaluation of the program has demonstrated its profound impact on people’s lives. Based on what we are learning in this evaluation, we are beginning to explore the possible implications of this New York City program for other communities across the US, and are piloting some national partnerships this season.
In order to ground this work in a broader understanding of theory and practice about the ways that music affects the lives of people involved in this program, our evaluators, WolfBrown Associates, produced this document as an overview of the landscape of music and health. Initial feedback from colleagues in the field has been enthusiastic, and people have also posed to us interesting and sometimes challenging follow-up questions. We hope you find it useful and thought-provoking.