Music from the heart

Memories are an important part of living and we all spend time capturing memorable moments to cherish and reflect on. When a child receives a life shortening diagnosis, the concept of memory making takes on an even greater significance.

‘Heartbeat music’ is a unique and powerful keepsake project facilitated by our Registered Music Therapists for families of palliative children across our Network. Using a stethoscope with a lapel microphone inserted, the heartbeat of a patient is recorded. Our music therapists then use an app like GarageBand to blend the child’s heartbeat into a song or piece of music of the family’s choice, or give the recording to the family to keep in memory of their child.

Roxanne McLeod, Registered Music Therapist at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead says Heartbeat music brings together sounds that capture the essence and fullness of life – the beating heart and the music that expresses love for a child, “It is such a privilege to record heartbeat songs for a family, and to create something that holds so much meaning. It is a very powerful way to reflect that when a child’s life has ended, they continue to live on in the hearts of all those who loved them – the beat goes on.” 

Annabelle Keevers is the Registered Music Therapist at our children’s hospice Bear Cottage, and Heartbeat music is a very important component of her work.

“Sometimes it’s made even more special when a parent or sibling writes a song with me and we record the music together. The music which has been created is not only matched with a child’s heartbeat but the song comes directly from the heart of the one who loves them.” Annabelle Keevers, Registered Music Therapist, Bear Cottage.

The concept of Heartbeat music was developed by Brian Schreck, an American Board-Certified Music Therapist, who first came up with the idea of recording a child's heartbeat and using the pulse as the basis of a musical piece which is completely unique and personal. Roxanne feels that music can often capture and reflect feelings in a way that words cannot, but most importantly it creates memories that last a lifetime. “The whole family can participate in music moments. This shared experience creates precious memories that can be recalled and treasured years down the track.”

Monica Hye Yoon Lee, Registered Music Therapist at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick says being able to facilitate and provide positive interactions and memory making through music for families caring for a child at end of their life is an incredible honour. She says Heartbeat music can bring moments of beauty and celebration in the midst of intense suffering and grief.

“We are able to provide the family with a beautifully recorded, long lasting memory of their loved one. Their precious heart beat is the foundation of a unique musical piece which can be cherished forever.” Monica Hye Yoon Lee, Registered Music Therapist, Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick.