Brisbane Times, December 19, 2009
Legenda: Play it again...Sydney Symphony members perform for children in the Starlight Room at the Children's Hospital at Westmead Photo: Adam Hollingworth
"MUSIC can soothe the mind but it can also heal the body.
Studies into the restorative powers of Mozart, Beethoven and even Beyonce have found regular exposure to music, particularly live performance, can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and alleviate pain.
According to Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia - which conducts therapy, training and research at the Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre, at the University of Western Sydney - music can benefit children, teens and adults with a range of health issues.
Music can help treat autism spectrum disorders, dementia, intellectual and learning problems as well as people with limited verbal skills.
Studies by the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London found that hospital patients who had regular exposure to visual art or music experienced a 48 per cent reduction in their stress levels, measured by the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Live music in particular was found to be highly effective in combating anxiety, with a 32 per cent improvement reported in those patients.
Bonnie Nilsson, one of four music therapists based at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, recently visited a 10-year-old girl who was due to have a needle inserted into her spine and composed a funny song about the doctors and needles.
''Last week it took them two hours to calm her down and I went in and it took them 40 minutes,'' she said.
Ms Nilsson said choice of music was one of the few luxuries afforded to sick children who could find themselves confined to the hospital for long periods. ''They lose a lot of control over everything to do with their body and their treatment, so … with music they get to choose, they have control in the session, they can choose which instrument to play … and it increases their moods and stimulates them,'' she said.
At Westmead, the Sydney Symphony participates in the music4health program in partnership with health insurer MBF.
Members of its brass section led about 50 sick children and their parents in a Christmas carol singalong this month.
Kayla Coppe, 13, has been in and out of the hospital since she was born because of a rare condition that caused her to suffer several strokes.
Her mother Rebecca said music had been Kayla's lifeline. ''She goes into a different world when she listens to music. It is wonderful to see her escape like that.''
During her last stay at hospital, Kayla was in the isolation ward where her only company was a music therapist, who took instruments and played with the teenager for more than an hour.
''It lifted her mood greatly,'' Mrs Coppe said.
Adolescent psychiatrist Sloane Madden said live concerts provided sick children with the chance to meet their idols and do things ordinary kids do. ''We know that when kids are feeling better about themselves, they're likely to be more motivated around their treatment.''
Symphony trombonist Ron Prussing said the concerts - there have been eight at Westmead this year - provided some welcome respite for the parents as well.
''It must be very draining for the parents who are there day in, day out and to see their kids away from their troubles must be wonderful.''"
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald