Kids Rock Cancer, an innovative Maryville University program teaches kids the ‘Heartbeat’ of music

Music therapy sessions lift families dealing with a sickle cell and cancer diagnosis
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 5:42 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Maryville University’s innovative Kids Rock Cancer (KRC) program is widely recognized for its meaningful support of patients and families faced with sickle cell, blood disorders and cancer.

Now in its 14th year and a priority community program for Maryville, KRC’s certified music therapists work with children, siblings and parents using music and songwriting as a therapeutic vehicle for self-expression.

Just this year, KRC expanded to offer more comprehensive music therapy services in supporting children, teens, and young adults.

“Music therapy has been around for decades and is considered an effective palliative tool for families and patients of all ages who are suffering,” said Crystal Weaver, MHA, LPC, CFC, MT-BC, director of music therapy for Maryville University’s Myrtle E. And Earl E. Walker College of Health Professions, who fosters relationships with community partners, conducts music therapy research, and supervises music therapy students.

Alison Cole, MBA, MT-BC, lead music therapist, brings a wealth of clinical experience and has introduced the “heartbeat song” to serve infants and toddlers in addition to children, adolescents, and young adults. A pilot project of audio “legacy recordings” allows children to invite parents, grandparents, and guardians to be active participants during therapeutic songwriting sessions.

“Music is an amazing tool in therapy,” added Cole. “Engaging someone through music can be a strong diversion when dealing with a diagnosis of cancer or blood disorders, as well as a form of self-expression about a patient’s needs, feelings, or level of pain. I love helping people, and I love music.”

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month and Child Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the power of music therapy to help families cope.