For a few magical moments, kids undergoing the pain and emotional challenge of cancer treatment have a chance to step away from their daily routine and instantly transform, from patient to rock star.
These young musicians write and record original songs in the unlikeliest of places: their own hospital room. The musical interludes are more than just a welcome break; they are part of a unique program created by Maryville University called Kids Rock Cancer.
Using the proven healing power of music therapy, Kids Rock Cancer provides an outlet of emotion and expression for children who have been diagnosed with cancer and other blood disorders (read more about the program in the March issue of HEC-TV Magazine).
As part of the program, a certified music therapist visits pediatric cancer centers and family cancer support communities with portable music equipment, including a laptop computer, guitar and/or keyboard. In one or two sessions of an hour or more, the therapist helps the child or children of those dealing with cancer, express a set of thoughts and ideas that will become lyrics for a song. Working together, they compose a melody to complete the song. Finally, the child sings into a microphone and stars in the song he or she has written and receives a personal CD recording as a legacy piece to keep.
Kids Rock Cancer has served over 350 pediatric cancer patients and their families throughout the St. Louis community since it began in 2009.
The Higher Education Channel could not pass up the opportunity to raise awareness of music therapy and wanted to shine a light on Kids Rock Cancer. In close partnership with Maryville University, HEC-TV recently produced a Kids Rock Cancer documentary to show the powerful example of how this therapy can help children manage the physical and emotional trauma of cancer in their lives.
Narrated by nationally-renowned broadcaster Bob Costas, the documentary tells the story of Kids Rock Cancer from the patient perspective, through interviews and footage featuring children who have benefitted from the program: 7-year-old Arianna, 19-year-old Pierre and others, along with background information on music therapy and Kids Rock Cancer provided by Maryville faculty and staff.
Thursday was the world premiere of HEC-TV and Maryville University’s documentary, Kids Rock Cancer, at the Chase Park Plaza Theater. Through a sea of smiles – and a few tears – the premiere was a hit.
“I really felt that the message about what music can do to kids – if you’ve been in a situation where you’ve had a loved one or relative who has gone through that – to know that they can reach out and have something like this that can be a distraction and that can change their life for that moment…it’s really inspirational,” Michael Donio said, who was one of the many of the viewers at Thursday’s world premiere.
“I cried and I laughed and I thought it was so amazing,” Arianna’s mom Lori Zucker said. “And I, of course, thought Ariana was incredible, and it was so cool to see her up on the big screen. But the whole movie and all the pieces about each of the people…I thought it was just so well done and I hope that everybody gets to see it.”
Perhaps the role model of the group, 19-year-old Pierre, might be Kids Rock Cancer’s biggest fan.
As a teenager, Pierre was an artist with a passion for music. He turned his mother’s basement into a recording studio and practiced his music day and night. When he was diagnosed with bone cancer, however, his creative inspiration stopped and thus, his music stopped. Through the music therapy provided by Kids Rock Cancer, Pierre was able to get his inspiration back.
“I definitely think that Kids Rock Cancer is a good program for anybody who is seeking inspiration or motivation,” Pierre said. “Everybody needs to watch it…everybody around the world…just so they can get a better understanding of what people are going through, whether they are going through cancer…what their families are going through, what their friends are going through…it’s good for everybody to see.”
The Kids Rock Cancer documentary will be offered to the more than 400 public television stations around the country along with other non-commercial stations such as HEC-TV and is slated to air on HEC-TV in 2015. It will also be available via the HEC-TV website and on DVD. Click here to view a trailer of the documentary and visit kidsrockcancer.org for more information.