Each Monday afternoon what might be described as a cacophony of joy is heard coming from the pediatric playroom at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Thanks to musician and music educator, David Ford of Tonewood Family Music, Inc., patients of all ages and their families are invited to sing, dance, and play a variety of instruments to express that we all have “Music in Me!” While the hospital experience can often be scary, stressful, and even painful, this musical experience never fails to produce a lot of noise and even more smiles on the part of the kids themselves, their parents, and every nurse or staff member nearby. The obvious benefits to the children include laughter and a positive mood, the expression of sometimes intense feelings through the songs and the banging of drums or other instruments, and the welcome escape from the challenges of being ill, injured, and “stuck in the hospital.” David has a wonderful technique of using familiar songs, but incorporating silly new lyrics and empowering messages into the group. The children direct the songs and games with suggestions from their imaginations – expressing any wacky, emotive, or imaginative idea that comes mind – and get to see their suggestions made into music. They can then take these fun, melodic ideas with them to replay throughout the day. The timing was perfect for one 9 year old patient experiencing a high level of anger and frustration over his arduous treatment regimen. Coming into the music group gave him a much needed opportunity to “play out’ his feelings in an appropriate way. For parents, the ability to get away from medical routines for a few minutes and to see their child happily “being a child” is tremendously gratifying. One parent recently remarked with tears in her eyes, “I haven’t seen my son this happy all week, what a gift!!”
“Music in Me” is associated with the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Child Life Program in partnership with Shands Arts in Medicine, and is made possible through the generous support of the Avnee Rawal Fund for Pediatric Health and Community Wellness.