Music to Help Sick Children Heal


They show up at scary needle-prickings and before big surgeries; they help kids speak, regulate their walking gait, and even go to the bathroom; they comfort with families as they prepare for a child to die. Music is their clinical specialty.

Children’s started its program in 1996 with just four hours a week of music therapy by students at Berklee College of Music. Now four certified staff work 130 hours per week in the Longwood Medical Area hospital and its satellite sites.

Bereaud, 44, has a bachelor’s in music therapy from Berklee. Her path to the profession was deeply personal: She grew up in Poland with a twin brother, Karol, who had cerebral palsy. He had trouble speaking whole sentences, but when her family played music, the rhyme and rhythm helped him memorize verses and sing along, she said.

“I saw how music was such a link between his disability and being able to express himself,” Bereaud said. Karol, who died at 14, inspired her to use music to help other kids like him.

When Bereaud started working at Children’s as a Berklee student, music therapy was restricted to just one type of patient, those awaiting bone marrow transplants. Now any patient can request music therapy. With support from an outside grant, she and other staff treated 9,000 patients and families in 2015, according to the hospital.

Music therapists have become more integrated into medical teams: After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, for instance, Bereaud was called in to play keyboard and sing songs while a young survivor had dressing changes to remove metal shards from her body.

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