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Community Weblog - [ Soothing Sounds Promote Wellbeing ]

Soothing Sounds Promote Wellbeing

Reprinted with permission.

The little girl barely opened her eyes as she listened to the guitarist’s clear notes. He asked if she knew who the Beatles were. She didn’t. Instead, he played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for her and was rewarded with a smile. A few songs later and she dozed off. Jeff Hawes took his guitar and moved on to visit another patient at the Karmanos Cancer Center.

Jeff Hawes lives a busy life. The 42-year-old father of two works in technology sales support at SAS Institute. His evenings and weekends frequently involve ferrying his children to sports activities and music lessons. A talented guitarist who has been playing for 25 years, Jeff also finds time to use his musical skills to reach out to people in need of the instrument’s soothing quality.

Jeff is a member of the Michigan Fingerstyle Guitar Society (MFGS). Promoting the appreciation of fingerstyle guitar through concerts, workshops and goodwill, the Society has a membership of 60 guitarists. It was through the Society that Jeff met Kristine Frias, the Coordinator of Complimentary Therapies in the Patient and Family Support Services Department at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. The Institute and MFGS have collaborated to create a soothing and healing environment for the Center’s patients. Studies have found that music, especially music performed live, can help improve patients’ mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. MFGS members are now donating their time and talent to provide patients with that environment at the Karmanos Cancer Center.

Jeff Hawes shares a musical friendship with a young cancer patient

Robert Thurber of Farmington Hills enjoys a musical offering with his breakfast
For his next performance, Jeff’s audience grew as staff came to listen to him. He had adjusted his repertoire to accommodate the tastes of Robert Thurber, a patient from Farmington Hills. Robert, whose recent surgery left him in substantial pain, visibly relaxed as Jeff played “Misty” and “Tenderly”. He could be seen silently mouthing the words to “Girl from Ipanema.”

Later Jeff played in the Wertz Clinical Cancer Center atrium where patients and loved ones wait for treatment and doctor’s appointments. Leonard, from Toledo, was waiting for a friend to emerge from his appointment and commented on how the soothing music took the edge off waiting. After driving to Detroit from Ann Arbor, a patient named Marilyn was pleased to have the pleasant relaxing background sound. She said it took her mind off her problems. “Can he come back for my next appointment?” she asked.

Kristine explained that the main goal of music therapy at the Cancer Center is stress release and pain management. She frequently meets with patients using a flute, keyboard, guitar or voice to help them relax and feel more in control of their situation. Kristine has hosted a Spirituality and Music Workshop with Julie Weber, the spiritual counselor at the Hospice Center. For further information about music therapy and future workshops please contact Kristine Frias at 313-576-9284 or by email:

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