Music Therapist Creates Song From Child's Heartbeat

Music Therapy Provides Peace of Mind for Parents with Sick Children

The heartbeat is the most basic, beautiful metronome. It is such a powerful, audible representation of life and of the human experience.

A mother of a patient once told me, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” This comment compelled me to begin recording portions of music therapy sessions to proactively build a reservoir of positive and natural experiences with patients and their families.

When I began working in the CICU, NICU, PICU, it was more difficult to capture these moments, because some of these patients cannot speak, whether it is due to their age (infant), progression of illness, or intensive medical care (intubation).

I had heard of other music therapists in the medical field adding recordings of in utero heartbeats to lullabies created with high-risk pregnant mothers to increase bonding between the mother and baby.

But it wasn’t until I saw a piece of news highlighting a mother’s response to hearing her bereaved daughter’s heart still beating inside a recipient that sparked a light bulb. With an improvised stethoscope microphone, I realized I could capture patients’ rhythmic essence – their heartbeat – and add it to music that is meaningful to the patient and his or her family.

Working from a clinical foundation of palliative care, a specialized care for people with serious illnesses, my aim has always been to enhance or improve the patient and families’ quality of life. At Cincinnati Children’s, family-centered care is at the root of every intervention we facilitate.

So I realized this music therapy intervention could potentially fulfill those needs as well, and assist with increased coping, anticipatory grief, and pre/post loss and bereavement.

I have found that the process of performing this intervention together with the family is more important than the product, but aesthetic beauty and musicianship is necessary to truly honor the patient and family. I will ask the family what songs are important to the patient and meaningful to them, then the chosen songs are added instrumentally over the beat of the patient’s heart.

The resulting songs are as individualistic as the patients and families I serve and the outcome is a preservation of the patient’s legacy in the form of music.

Families in a situation in which their loved one has a serious illness feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Giving them something proactive and productive to focus on helps to normalize the situation and gives them a little bit of control. This is really the foundation of music therapy: utilizing music to help and support patients and family members address their emotional and social needs and improve quality of life.

I recently helped create a video which explains this heartbeat music therapy and how it has helped one family. You can hear the songs the patient’s father and younger brother chose together, and how the patient’s heartbeat and their love will never stop.

“So I think there is again this word love. It’s capable of so many transformations that can be then something quite practical. Music is the one way in which you can imagine that world—Music that speaks to the human soul, but originates somewhere else, that tells the music, the human soul, that you originate somewhere else. This is the voice of home.” 

Robbins, C. (2005). Personal Interview. Nordoff-Robbins Institute. New York, NY: NYU

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Brian Schreck, MA, MT-BC

About the Author: Brian Schreck, MA, MT-BC

Brian Schreck, MA, MT-BC, is the coordinator of music therapy at Cincinnati Children’s in the division of Child Life and Integrative Care. Brian studied music therapy at Berklee College of Music and New York University, and has been working professionally as a board certified music therapist for 10 years.

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Comments

  1. i dont know if anyone else is going to resd this but if this guy walks in your kids room do what he says you wont regret it. I was hesitant at first but 6 yrs later to hear the cds he made us listening to our 4 kids talk to colt thru brians cds when they werent aloud to see him makes me tear up right now. Your a ray of light when times seem darkest and you deserve a raise even if you are from kentucky. Lol
  2. Caralena Neaves May 01, 13:39
    What you did for the Bennett Family was AMAZING!!
  3. Judy Wilson May 01, 16:46
    I am Dylan's Grandma and I think what you did for our family is Wonderful, I would like to Thank Brian Schreck for his Amazing work.
  4. Amy Lindsey May 01, 17:06
    Hi I'm Dylan's aunt and I believe what Brian has done for our family and everyone else's family is just beautiful. You have touch our lives in a way that I can never describe. I would recommend this to everyone who has lost a child,a nephew, grandchild. Dylan was taken from us to early and through you we still have a part of him we will never ever forget you are truly an Angel!
  5. Chris is 100% right. Let this man do what he does!! I was also hesitant when the nurses first asked if I would like a musical therapist to come into Dylan's room. I wasn't sure about having a stranger in the room with us, playing a guitar, while we were losing our son. I was going to say no, actually, when my youngest son said that he thinks Dylan would like it. I am so glad he spoke up. The gift that Brian gave to our family is priceless and will be forever cherished. The time, thought, and care that he puts into what he does is absolutely beautiful. I will forever be greatful that Brian was placed in our lives.
  6. Nancy Ball May 01, 19:37
    Our daughter was part of the Starshine hospice care from the day she was born and we met Brian Schreck through the program. He is an amazing man who I believe God is using to bless many families with the gift of music. It was always welcomed when we would see Brian coming down the hall in the PICU. If you ever have to experience the PICU and they ask if you'd like a music therapist to come in say yes!! I just wish we could have gotten a cd like this of our Kelly. Brian we thank you! The Ball Bunch
  7. The Kramer family May 01, 22:18
    Brian "The Music Man" is stellar! Thank you for everything you did for our family.
  8. Paul Miller May 02, 10:01
    Brain and his staff have incredible gifts. The compassion they bring to the medical setting is necessary! I am very happy to learn from him and to call him a friend and colleague.
  9. Jonie Roberts May 02, 19:27
    This is absolutely amazing! A true gift. My son and Dylan were friends. I think this will be a great way his friends will get to remember him too. God bless the Bennett family. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you! The Roberts Family
  10. Carmen Stromberg May 03, 00:05
    I'm So ThankfuL For The Videos That You All Captured Of Alicia And Lilly As SHe Battled Liver Cancer. Lilly Can Watch Those As She Grows And See How Much Alicia Enjoyed And Loved her
  11. The Bryan family loves Brian!!! My son was at CHMC from July 13, 2007 until discharge October 10, 2007. Brian went out of his way to bring the joy of music to Christopher. From coming into his ICU room in the early weeks and softly playing songs on his guitar to following Chris as he moved from ICU to the Trach unit and finally to Rehab and still played and sang (learning Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scooting Boogie" which he had never played before)and finally, when Chris was able, letting him strum some instruments himself. Brian even made Chris a CD of his favorite songs. Whenever Brian came for a visit, that visit was the highlight of Chris' day. I sat back and watched two sweet souls sharing a love of music....and was amazed!!! Thank you Brian, for sharing your wonderful gift...we will always remember you!!!
  12. Patrice Ashworth May 20, 11:53
    Wow is the best way to describe how I felt after reading about this! I knew if I continued to read all the comments I'd be crying at work, but what Brian is doing for these families and patients is a special gift that will be treasured forever and keep their child with them always. Brian is a true blessing for those lives he continually touches.
  13. Sharri May 22, 09:50
    What an amazing story! Brian the gift you give to these families is unbelievable! What an incredible memory and an amazing way to keep their child a part of their lives in such a special way! I wish I would have know about your amazing talent when my grandson was here in 2011. Weslee spent 6 1/2 weeks in NICU, he had numerous surgery's and music always calmed him! Bless the Families who experience the death of a child! This treasured gift will help them thoughout the grieving process for many years to come! Thank you Brian for giving and making the most wonderful gift a parent could ever receive!
  14. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  15. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  16. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  17. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  18. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  19. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  20. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  21. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  22. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  23. […] 14-year-old Dylan Bennett lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Brian Schreck recorded his heartbeat. He then paired rhythmic thumping with some of Dylan’s […]
  24. […] on the hospital's blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, "I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice." "The worry that a lot of families I work with [is] that they would forget something, like the […]
  25. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  26. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  27. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital's blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, "I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice." […]
  28. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  29. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  30. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  31. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  32. […] Over six months, Schreck recorded the heartbeats of about 20 children in his efforts to help families of patients dealing with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. Schreck wrote on the hospital’s blog that he was inspired by a mother of one of his patients who once told him, “I’m afraid that I’m going to forget my daughter’s voice.” […]
  33. […] Source: Cincinnati Children’s Blog […]
  34. […] created with high-risk pregnant mothers to increase bonding between the mother and baby. Source: Cincinnati Children’s Blog He gives these parents a chance to feel love, to feel at ease, during a tumultuous time. It’s an […]
  35. […] Source: Cincinnati Children’s Blog via viralnova […]
  36. […] Source: Cincinnati Children’s Blog […]
  37. […] Thanks to Huffington Post for this story, learn more about Brian and his work at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital here […]
  38. […] Source: Cincinnati Children’s Blog […]
  39. […] Forrás: Cincinnati Children’s Blog […]
  40. Denise July 07, 18:03
    What an amazing gift to give. I would have loved to have had this when our granddaughter passed away last year. Thank you so much for all you do, God bless.
  41. Carolyn Donovan July 07, 22:32
    I wanted to major in Music Therapy but the Dean of the Music Dept. thought I should do a double in Performance and Music Ed. He said I was too emotional for Music Therapy and while I did what he suggested instead and had a wonderful career -I just now after 44 yrs. in the business truly get what he meant-I could not stop crying thru-out the story and listening to the music ...this is by far the best fb article ever -God Bless this gentlemen for what he does and God Bless the families that still have their children with them forever thanks to him. I guess we all do what we are supposed to with our music but this gifted gentlemen speaks for all of us who wish we could do more. Thanks you!
  42. Stephanie Merrill July 08, 18:24
    I have never felt so touched as I did when I saw this story. Is there any way that someone could help me get a hold of this gentle man for my adopted family the Slausons. On facebook you can find them at super Riley. Riley is a SUPER 5 year old that is going through Cystic Fibrosis and Cancer that is now terminal. Riley has 2 brothers and two sisters and a super mom and dad that take care of her I really think this would be a great healing tool when the time comes. Thank you for any help or just the prayers in your heart by reading this.
    • Rachel Camper
      Rachel Camper July 09, 09:26
      Hi Stephanie, I passed your comment along to Brian, and he is going to follow up with you via email. - Rachel, social media team
  43. kimber Westmore July 09, 13:38
    We write a blog about art changing hearts. I think this is a great story. Will you please contact me and let me know if ArtToHearts can also do a blog about you?
  44. Cheryl B July 09, 20:00
    We have a little girl in our area (near Philadelphia) who has Krabbe disease. She is expected to die before she turns 3. She is just over a year old and fighting to live through each hospitalization (2 in just 2 months) This would be so wonderful for them. Krabbe can be treated and children do ok if diagnosed at birth. Her parents are fighting to change the Pennsylvania newborn screening laws to include this so no other children and families have to suffer like Hannah and her family. Hannah's family posts to facebook daily: https://www.facebook.com/hopeforhannahbear Please pass this on.
  45. Jeremy Bennett August 29, 21:37
    It has now been 6 months since I lost my son,Dylan.I continue to listen to this song every day!I have kept in touch with Brian.He is such a wonderful man,and I believe this has made a special bond.I hope the message of his work continues to grow,as I believe many families can benefit from this.
  46. […] Source: Cincinnati Children’s Blog […]