Healing Notes

Music Therapy to Support Children in Medical Care

Photo of an infant receiving music therapy in a hospital setting

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The Healing Notes Program Facilitates Well-Being

The Resounding Joy Healing Notes program uses music therapy as a means to improve the cognitive, physical, psychological and social well-being of young children and families facing healthcare issues primarily in, but not restricted to, hospital settings. The Healing Notes goal is to facilitate positive experiences that will contribute to the overall quality of life and progression of health for children receiving medical care as well as their families.


Healing Notes Started Life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The story of Healing Notes began in 2003, when Allison Tartari, a San Diego mother of a newborn son struggling for his life against a blood disorder, happened to witness the profound impact that music therapy had on the health of another infant sharing the Rady Children’s Hospital—San Diego neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with her son. Allison immediately advocated the use of music therapy for her own infant and rejoiced when his condition improved following treatment. Determined to enable other hospitalized children to benefit from music therapy, Allison named and founded Healing Notes as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

From 2003 to 2009, under Allison’s leadership, Healing Notes contracted MusicWorx Inc.», a San Diego-based music therapy provider and clinical internship training site, to provide supervision of and all music therapy services to select patients at Rady Children’s Hospital—San Diego.

In 2010, Resounding Joy and Healing Notes found common ground, agreed to merge, and Allison began a term as vice president of the Resounding Joy board of directors. Resounding Joy decided to call its outreach to children receiving medical care the Healing Notes program. Under supervision of the Resounding Joy staff, MusicWorx music therapy interns still provide therapy services to Rady Children’s Hospital patients and their families at no cost. Neither MusicWorx nor Resounding Joy receives funding from Rady Children’s Hospital—San Diego.


Research Validates Music Therapy Health Benefits

Research proves that music therapy not only helps reduce health risks but also assists in the cognitive development of babies and children. Music therapy can achieve all the following:

  • Encourage and support cognitive stimulation
  • Improve oxygen saturation
  • Increase tolerance for auditory, multi-modal and visual stimulation
  • Reduce hospital stays by an average of five days
  • Reduce pain and stress
  • Stabilize heart and respiratory rates

When the Healing Notes staff of board-certified music therapists provide pre- and post-surgery support, procedural support and vital-sign regulation, their techniques provide structure, expressive outlet, positive reinforcement of the family dynamic, transitional support from hospital to home and bereavement services for mourning families.


Photo of a yound child receiving music therapy in a hospital bed

The Ariana Miller Music with Heart Program

Acute Cardiac Unit at Rady Children’s Hospital—San Diego»

Photo of Ariana Miller

Ariana Miller

In 2008, the San Diego community lost a loving and caring young musician named Ariana Miller to congenital heart disease. Ariana was a gentle soul with a deep love of music. From the first moment of her fragile life, she responded to the rhythm of musical sound. As she struggled with her disease, surviving six open-heart surgeries and countless other invasive procedures, it was music that brought joy into her life. Although she ultimately lost her battle with congenital heart disease, her passionate love of music and its healing effect lives on through the Resounding Joy Ariana Miller Music with Heart program.

Ariana was the first child with heart disease to receive music therapy from Resounding Joy. For 12 months, she benefited from at-home music therapy provided by three MusicWorx Inc.» interns. In 2011, thanks to funding provided in Ariana’s memory, Resounding Joy extended its community work to children suffering with heart disease at Rady Children’s Hospital—San Diego through the Ariana Miller Music with Heart program. Since that time, the program has become an integral part of the hospital’s cardiac care, providing music therapy at no cost to more than 1000 children, primarily recovering from cardiac surgery or being hospitalized for cardiac ailments.

After nurses and other medical professionals at Rady Children’s Hospital identify the best candidates for music therapy, Resounding Joy therapists treat the children and give their parents strategies for continuing to create positive experiences through music at the hospital, and later, at home.

Heart of a Child is an annual Resounding Joy benefit concert which provides funding for the Ariana Miller Music with Heart program. This concert showcases some of the very best young musicians in San Diego County and features a diverse array of talented vocalists and instrumentalists.In 2016, due to the generous support of our sponsors and patrons, Heart of a Child raised over $70,000, enabling us to provide daily music therapy for the first time at Rady Children’s Hospital.  This has made an incredible impact on the care of these children.

Read about the 2017 concert.»
Read the article about Healing Notes»


Photo of an infant receiving music therapy in a hospital setting

Healing Notes in the Hematology / Oncology Division

At Rady Children’s Hospital—San Diego»

For children diagnosed with blood disorders or cancer, Healing Notes music therapists use singing, songwriting, instrument playing and rhythmic movement to help decrease pain perception, normalize the hospital environment during long stays, provide choice and control opportunities, enhance patient and family coping skills, create expressive outlets, provide cognitive and sensory stimulation, address developmental goals where appropriate and all while comforting and elevating mood in both hospital patient and family.

The ability to provide music therapy services relies entirely upon the success of Resounding Joy community fundraising and philanthropic grants.


Photo of music therapist treating a child at home

Healing Notes at Home

Photo of Ronnie Reuer

Ronnie Reuer

Dr. Barbara Reuer, Resounding Joy executive director, created Ronnie’s Fund to honor her youngest brother as well as to defray the cost of providing Healing Notes at-home music therapy services to families of children who are homebound due to incapacitating illness or physical disability. Ronnie’s Fund matches all donations made to Resounding Joy palliative care music therapy services.

Barbara’s brother Ronnie Reuer was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)—one of nine dystrophies—characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. In the absence of special education in the 1960s, the Reuer family provided Ronnie’s home schooling, and they found that music quickly became his favorite subject and pastime. Ronnie battled multiple bouts of pneumonia that ultimately took his life when he was just eight years old.


Healing Notes in Palliative Care

Lindsay Zehren, MT-BC, working with a group of families with children in palliative care.

Lindsay Zehren, MT-BC, working with a group of families with children in palliative care.

Children in palliative care suffer from serious, complex, life-limiting, or life-threatening conditions. Palliative care is more than pain management; it encompasses the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of wellbeing. Former MusicWorx intern and now current staff member, Lindsay Zehren, piloted a music therapy program for children in palliative care in 2015. The presence of music therapy for patients like these has proven to make a significantly positive contribution to a wide variety of challenges these children, their families, and their caregivers face on a daily basis.

The pilot was so successful and the demand so high, that Rady’s Children’s Hospital Auxiliary Unit generously funded 140 hours of music therapy for these patients. Due to the severity of the children’s conditions and the constant battles they must endure, we provide at-home therapy and group sessions.

Music therapy aims to enhance the quality of life for the child and their family through support, symptom management, and family bonding. Oftentimes music therapy is able to comfort when words seem inadequate and provide a means of positive interaction and expression of feelings. This program also provides sensory stimulation, encourages self-soothing, teaches parents how to use music to help their child, and encourages movement and participation.

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Healing Notes in the Community

Resounding Joy has opened Healing Notes services to any child up to age 5 with a medical and/or development special need!  “Shine and Sing” groups, fun and interactive music therapy sessions for parents/guardians and their children, are popping up around San Diego County.

Learn how to use music in a fun and effective way to address your child’s cognition, social skills, movement, and academic skills.   Email Lindsay Zehren at lzehren@resoundingjoyinc.org to find out more, join an existing group, or start your own!