CHICAGO, Illinois - (This article is a special guest post submitted by iCAN KIDS Illinois Youth Member, Nancy Zhou to share her unique and innovative patient therapy program called Songs of Soothing.)
Over nearly a year, something many of us have learned is that music can bring joy and unite us all. Nancy Zhou, a junior at Walter Payton College Prep, and youth member through the International Children's Advisory Network, Inc. (iCAN) wanted to find a way to spread this joy. She’d had the idea of connecting young musicians to play in children’s hospitals and senior care facilities for a while, but never quite got the opportunity to bring it to fruition. In September of 2020, however, something changed for Nancy: “when the second wave of COVID hit... I just thought, ‘people are even more isolated and lonely during this time, so why not start this initiative virtually?’” And with that, Songs of Soothing was born.
Ever since she founded it, Nancy has been hard at work to expand and improve Songs of Soothing. When she was first recruiting volunteers, Nancy looked far and wide to find anyone who may be interested in joining her new program. During this process, she says, “The main way I did it was thinking of any possible young musicians around me that I could reach... just using every type of connection that worked that I had.” Even as a junior in high school, she still manages to run their website, edit volunteer performances together, and find new care facilities to work with. The hospital and care facilities Songs of Soothing currently works with are Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Chicago Methodist Senior Services, Shriners Hospitals for Children, The Selfhelp Home, and UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s with more in the works.
Songs of Soothing’s first virtual performance premiere in December 2020 turned out just as great as they had hoped. Volunteer coordinators at the hospitals and facilities said the patients and seniors enjoyed the music that the performers had brought to them as it offered escape and entertainment. After working on Songs of Soothing’s first performance, Nancy’s favorite part is receiving all the video clips from performers and “getting to know [the volunteers] more in those intro sections... Really to see, ‘Oh, there’s so much personality and passion in those volunteers.’”
As for plans, Songs of Soothing has two upcoming projects in March and May. Any musicians between the ages of six and eighteen can volunteer to join Songs of Soothing to perform in those future projects. There is no need to be affiliated with CYSO to participate. To join the fifteen current volunteers, go to songsofsoothing.com/volunteer, click the “register here” button, and fill out the linked registration form. It is never too late to join Songs of Soothing, and they are always looking for any musicians willing to volunteer!