Skip to Content

View Additional Section Content

Published on April 15, 2014

New Music Therapy Program at MU Children's Hospital Uses Instruments to Help Kids Heal

COLUMBIA, Mo. - If you walk into University of Missouri Children's Hospital today, you might hear the thump of bongo drums or the chime of hand bells amid usual hospital sounds.

MU Children's Hospital now offers music therapy for kids receiving care. Whether they're having one-time procedures or ongoing treatments, kids can participate in interactive musical play or listen to the soothing sounds of a guitar with a professional music therapist.

"Children's Hospital is pleased to offer families in mid-Missouri music therapy to help in healing," said Keri Simon, C.P.A., M.H.A., executive director of MU Women's and Children's Hospital. "In addition to the advanced care we provide, complementary services such as music therapy make Children's Hospital a kid-friendly environment."

The hospital introduced the new service in October 2013 as a part of its child life program, which employs play activities to help children understand and cope with their illnesses, and time in the hospital.

Music therapy is the use of music to improve a patient's physical, emotional or cognitive well-being. Research has shown that music therapy can reduce a patient's anxiety and perception of pain, and it can enhance a patient's hospital experience.

"I'm using music to reach a goal that's not musical," said Emily Herzog, M.T.-B.C., the hospital's therapist. "Music can relax patients as well as energize and stimulate them. For some patients, 30 minutes of music can turn around their whole day."

Herzog, who is board-certified in music therapy, works with doctors, nurses, child life specialists and other staff to tailor activities that meet the goals of both the patients' families and their health care team. For instance, to improve motor skills, kids might shake hand bells. To relieve pain without medication, Herzog might distract kids from their discomfort by having them interact with an African djembe or rattle drum. To lower their heart rates and blood pressure, kids might listen to the chords of Herzog's classical guitar.

"Music is a great motivator," Herzog said. "When kids see my giant cart of instruments, they are intrigued and are more likely to get out of bed and be active in participation."

Herzog incorporates drums, tambourines, shakers and other percussive instruments into her therapy. This allows for a success-oriented experience for the child, whereas playing a violin or French horn takes years of education and practice.

The music therapy program is funded by a $35,000 annual donation from the MU student fundraiser Mizzou Dance Marathon. The organizers have pledged to support the program at the same level for five years.

"Music is what inspires us to keep going at our fundraising event, and we love that we can give music back to the kids at the Children's Hospital," said Ellen O'Connor, executive director of Mizzou Dance Marathon and a student at the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.

The local charity Pascale's Pals donated $5,000 to buy specialty instruments for the music therapy program.
"Our mission is to bring happiness and healing to kids in the hospital," said Sylvie Carpentier, who heads the organization. "Music can make a child smile and give a child peace."