Center for the Development of Arts Leaders – Update from Hope Lodge

Hello from Molly, Keith, Ryan, Lillian and Rachel – one of From the Top’s Center for the Development of Arts Leaders (CDAL) teams! For the past ten months, the five of us have worked to bring music to Hope Lodge – a place where people who come to Boston for outpatient cancer treatment can stay free of charge.

Left to right: Lillian, Keith, Ryan, Chris (Lodge Staff), Rachel, Molly, Kassie (Mentor)

What have we done and what are we learning?
We started our work at Hope Lodge by organizing themed concert nights for the guests. They were fun and the residents enjoyed each one, but we realized that we were just playing for them. We could do that on our own – and being part of CDAL, we knew that we not only had the opportunity, but the support to pursue more. In an effort to provide both relaxing, comfortable musical environments as well as interactive experiences to the guests, our work has transformed over the past ten months into organizing collaborative concerts with Hope Lodge guests, discussions, playing games, raising money for the American Cancer Society, and performing at Boston’s Relay for Life!

Ryan and Keith play a duet for Hope Lodge guests as they finish their dinner.

What are some challenges we face?
When we started, we quickly realized that the turnover rate of those staying at the Lodge was as high as 2–3 people a day, which made planning experiences that built off of one another difficult. So, we had a dilemma: how do we create a “community of hope” and design a comprehensive, interactive musical program, when each time we come, we can’t build on what we did last time? We’re still working on this. Since the beginning, we’ve been interested in learning more about musical therapy and exploring how and why music can empower, inspire, and create positive change. Obviously none of us are professional music therapists, but we thought pursuing activities that resembled what music therapists do might be an effective way to connect with residents, especially since many are very sick.

Through research, meetings with professionals and partaking in some great music therapy events at Berklee College of Music, we got a chance to learn about clinical musical therapy and why it is so powerful. There are many studies that attribute music therapy to enhance the mood, quality of life, and in some cases, pain, in adults with cancer. We are trying to work out a happy medium between performing for the residents and having them partake in activities that will give them a temporary distraction from their pain. The research in musical therapy that we have done has been invaluable in planning our agenda for the fall.

What are we doing now?
This fall, we are focusing on planning programs that combine performing for and interacting with the residents. To start, we have been holding programs that mix performances with singalongs and writing activities that capture the residents’ experiences with music. We are also organizing a drum circle and recording a “CD of Hope,” filled with inspiring and hopeful songs. Hope Lodge guests will be able to take this CD home with them as a way to continue their journey towards healing.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates! We are really excited to see where the end of the year takes us!