GRS Musicians Celebrate Pilot of Music for Health Initiative

Media Contact:
Samara Napolitan
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 4

For the patients of Spectrum Health’s Neuro Rehabilitation Services, the power of music extends beyond the concert hall. On July 22, Grand Rapids Symphony musicians are celebrating the successful first year of its Music for Health Initiative with an outdoor, festival-format concert at Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Centers.

During the 2013-14 Season, a group of six Grand Rapids Symphony musicians collaborated with Spectrum Health’s music therapy program to launch the Music for Health Initiative. Its goal: to engage with the healthcare community and introduce live music into healthcare settings. Through performance, Grand Rapids Symphony musicians created positive physical, emotional and spiritual experiences for patients, their families and healthcare providers.

“As musicians, we had the opportunity to be inventive and devise the ideal program for music therapy. This event is the culmination and celebration of the program’s growth this year,” said Diane McElfish Helle, the Music for Health Initiative Project Coordinator and Grand Rapids Symphony violinist.

The project was funded during the 2013-14 Season by a grant from the Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation. The Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation has renewed their grant for the 2014-15 Season due to the overwhelming positive response from patients, musicians and Spectrum Health staff.

During the pilot season, six musicians performed monthly as duos for specially-designed group sessions led by the Neuro Rehabilitation Services music therapist, Erin Wegener. Patients may have experienced stroke, brain injury or dementia, and each session was designed for a particular group. Musicians participated in ways that reached beyond traditional concert format, including improvisation and activities like singing or playing percussion. The sessions were very popular with patients and their family members, and as many as 25 people have attended a session.

“Having Symphony members work with our program provides a side benefit—giving a sense of value to the people we serve. It says ‘you’re worth this! You’re worth having excellent musicians play for you and with you!” said Wegener of the program.

The private concert will be held at the Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center’s Kalamazoo Avenue Campus outdoor grounds from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. All six musicians involved in the program will be performing alongside Wegener. The program will begin with musician Paul Austin blowing a call on his alphorn.A wide range of music will be performed, including Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” excerpts from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst and Jules Massenet’s “Méditation.”

The program will also include interactive elements, and the musicians will intersperse comments to share their experiences with the program. A picturesque gazebo will serve as a covered stage with decorations to promote a festive atmosphere. Food will be provided for the patients and their families.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director David Lockington, ten concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony’s Affiliated Organizations include the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. The Symphony also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony please

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.