The Power of Music

Writer Fadi Sitto

Photography Courtesy of Musicians On Call, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Cindy Weir

Music has a way of opening our hearts and helping us feel more connected to others, to ourselves and to the world around us. It’s a direct line to our emotions and state of being, and it’s no secret that music can help us feel better.

Hospitals around the world are using music therapy as a way to ease a patients’ pain and reduce overall anxiety, allowing them to heal faster. There is evidence that music even reduces the side effects of cancer therapy. Listening to music is known to ease the stress level associated with chemotherapy, and it may also suppress patients’ nausea.

For patients suffering from intense chronic pain like arthritis, music therapy can reduce the amount of pain medication needed, and gives people a sense of better control over their pain. Think of it this way, music therapy could help to give someone the same relief as what CBD oil, or another form of pain relief, can offer to help the patient to feel better. For patients, knowing that there are multiple options to choose from, which includes music therapy is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps one of  the most common and beneficial ways that music helps, is when it’s used to improve the quality of life for dementia patients. It can help to recall memories, assist in communication and improve physical coordination.

Music therapy is live and in action here in Arizona at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and at Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center.

Both partner with Musicians On Call, a non-profit that brings the healing power of live music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. 

By bringing live, in-room performances to patients undergoing treatment or who are unable to leave their beds, Musicians On Call volunteers bring a welcomed joy that is palpable.

Musicians On Call volunteers have performed for over 700,000 patients, families and caregivers across the country since 1999. The organization has been performing for patients in Phoenix since 2016, and has weekly programs at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center. Volunteer musicians have played for over 8,400 patients, families and caregivers in Phoenix to-date. 

One such selfless volunteer Arizona musician is Cindy Weir. 

Cindy is a highly acclaimed singer-songwriter who expresses themes of self-awareness, compassion and transformation through her unique organic style. She’s also an accomplished speech-language pathologist and music teacher.

She skillfully infuses creative acoustic guitar harmonies, fluid grooves, inspired vocal melodies and poetic, lyrical imagery though her songs. Cindy conceives and creates music as a vehicle for healing in a variety of settings, with a range of diverse audiences like the patients at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“What’s great about going room-to-room is that it’s so personal and so intimate. One time a sweet little girl gave me a magnetic flower she’d made, that was really special. I keep it in my guitar case for good juju!” Cindy says.

“A grandad was holding a little infant, with a feeding tube in her nose and IVs in her tiny arms. He was just swaying with the groove, rocking her gently, and the most beautiful tears trickled down his cheek as he looked into her sleepy eyes. My guide had to leave the room, it was a very tender moment where you just realize how music touches people so deeply, softening the roughness of life,” She recalls.

Cindy holds a master’s degree in humanities from New York University and a second master’s in speech and language pathology. She has also completed specialist and master certifications at Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts.

For the past two years, Cindy has played at both the Phoenix VA Community Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She currently plays a couple times per month for Musicians On Call.

“One night, I sang ‘No Worries Here.’ It’s a fun, beachy themed song about being loved and safe and not having any worries. After singing this, the children started following me out of the room and down the hall. The families and staff were delighted to round them all up and bring them back to their beds; it brought some joy and levity to the evening,” she warmly recalls.

Another talented local musician that participates in the Musicians On Call program is Bruce Vaught. A true artist, Bruce is a singer-songwriter, licensed massage therapist and guitar teacher.

“Performing at Phoenix Children’s Hospital served as a reminder of how fortunate I am to be healthy. Seeing children who are ill is difficult, but watching them respond to my music is so fulfilling. I’ve also found that often the family needs the music more than the patients,” Bruce explains.

Bruce is an Air Force veteran, and when the Musicians On Call Phoenix chapter was founded, he signed up immediately and performed at the Phoenix VA Hospital, as well as Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“Having family members thank me for providing them an uplifting distraction from their struggles reminded me of the importance of my gift and the power of music,” he says. 

 “My favorite part of our program is the incredible patient interactions, the kids who smile for the first time since admission and the ones that sing along and smile. The parents are touched so deeply they’re overwhelmed with emotion,” says Jenna Zayatz, manager of volunteer services and programs.

It’s real-life warm and fuzzy stories like these that show how important the music therapy volunteer program is for the families involved. This musical healing process can bring about miraculous changes for patients. 

It’s the amazing volunteers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, wonderful organizations like Musicians On Call and the talented local musicians with the hearts of lions, who make our world better.

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