The Healing Power of Music
David couldn’t wait. He arrived in the 6th floor playroom more than an hour early for his first music therapy group. During his one-hour session with music therapist, Jennifer Zink, David was in his “happy place.” He sang at the top of his 4-year-old lungs, strummed the guitar, beat the drums and boogied in his wheelchair. The last thing on his mind was his multiple injuries including a fractured skull and leg, the result of a car accident just before New Year’s Eve.
The healing power of music was working its magic for David and the other children in Jennifer’s Toddler/Pre-school music therapy group – one of several such groups she holds each week. It was a joy to watch the children react to each song. I was reminded this was music with a purpose when one little girl had to leave the group shortly after arriving. She was headed to the operating room for a procedure but her care team didn’t want her to miss a little time in music therapy. “She loves Jennifer and the music always makes her smile,” noted her Child Life Specialist as she wheeled the little girl out of the room. It was sobering to think about where this sweet toddler was headed but it was clear she headed there with a smile.
Jennifer Zink, our full-time music therapist, is a key member of the clinical care team here at Nationwide Children’s. She earned her music therapy degree from Ohio University and completed a six-month clinical residency prior to beginning work here at Children’s. She puts a lot of miles on her guitar and traveling music cart covering 20+ units at the hospital working with individual patients and holding groups for Toddlers, Teens and School-age children each week. She also has special certification to work with the premature babies in our neonatal intensive care unit. With these tiny newborns she focuses on introducing positive sound to their fragile ears and creating a calming environment.
Jennifer is quick to point out that the music is wonderful but what children prefer most is the sound of their parent’s voices. She often helps make recordings for children of their parents singing songs, reading stories, saying prayers or leaving special messages. She encourages parents to sing to their children, regardless of their singing voices. “It’s the voice they most want to hear,” she adds.
Back in the 6th Floor Playroom, David reluctantly says goodbye to Jennifer at the end of the session but not without a repeat performance of his favorite song, “You are my Sunshine.” As he was wheeled back to his room David was already asking about the next time with “the music lady.” Mom assured him they could listen to music in their room and there would soon be another group where Jennifer will work her musical magic once again.
This video captured a bit of our time with David in music therapy. I would love to hear from you if you’ve had an experience with Jennifer or any of our music therapy team here at Nationwide Children’s.