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Healing Music at Mattel


By Bethany Powers '11

Published Jul 1, 2009 11:00 AM


Music therapist Vanya Green and a merry band of little musicians get a gig going at Mattel Children's Hospital. Photo by Michelle Tolentino.

The beeping and buzzing of medical equipment can frighten the youngest patients at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. But when music therapist Vanya Green begins to work, the soothing sounds of instruments and singing fill the room instead.

Studying music from around the world led recording artist Green to understand the huge capacity that music has to influence people. And for two years, she has put that understanding to good use in Mattel's Child Life and Pediatric Pain programs.

"We know that music doesn't cure and isn't a prescriptive thing," Green says. "We write songs and create music to inspire the kids and get them through." Still, like art therapy or acupuncture, music therapy is growing as a method of relieving pain and easing symptoms.

"This program is unique because Vanya tailors her work to each of the kids," says Amy Bullock, director of the Child Life Program. "She gets to know each child and their personalities, their abilities and their coping strategies."

Helping hospital-bound kids pen their own lyrics gives them a sense of control when they don't have a choice over procedures or routine. Many often want to learn how to sing or play an instrument, so Green has built a small recording studio in the hospital playroom. As the program grows, so will the capabilities of the studio.

Green began playing the piano and cello as a child, and by age 12, she also discovered a passion for singing. She studied music around the globe in places like Turkey and Israel and was moved by what she heard. On a scholarship to study in Spain, she remembers a stirring experience she had while listening to flamenco music.

"I observed and experienced how deep, intense feelings of pain can actually create beauty in music. People familiar with this kind of music aren't afraid to express pain in this way."

Green's love for language and her ability to speak several has allowed her to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds. And to build a burgeoning career: She recently was a Best Female Vocalist nominee in the 2008 Hollywood Music Awards and named one of the top 10 artists by the International World of Music Awards.

No doubt many of the littlest patients at UCLA would agree that they are honors well-earned.



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