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Small Tunes take on a Big Cause
BY: DANIELLE KOLENIAK
There’s nothing like the song ‘Happy’ to turn a bad day around. Or Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ to make traffic on Daniels pleasant. You can call it, ‘rocking out’ or you can call it music therapy. Regardless, music is good for the soul.
Music therapy’s notoriety took off when Gabby Giffords was recovering from a gunshot wound to her head. You may remember, Gabby Giffords was a member of the United States House of Representatives.
On January 8, 2011, a week into her third term, Giffords was a victim of a shooting near Tucson, which was reported to be an assassination attempt on her, at a supermarket where she was meeting publicly with constituents. She was critically injured; thirteen people were injured and six others were killed in the shooting, among them Federal Judge John Roll. At first she could not talk, so she and her music therapist sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and other classics together. Singing helped her brain relearn how to form words for conversation.
Music therapy’s healing work is also used for children who are chronically ill. Singing, song writing and playing musical instruments are a way to help them cope. It’s a moment to take them on a journey, away from reality and bring healing through a tune or beat.
Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promoting a calm, meditative state. Also, research has found that the change in brainwave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.
This week we sat down and talked with high school senior and parishioner, Sam Eusanio.
As a child, he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, also known as I-T-P. If you’re not familiar with the disorder, don’t be embarrassed— I had to ‘Google it.’ ITP is a disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. The bleeding results from unusually low levels of platelets — the cells that help your blood clot.
At 13, the Children’s Hospital was a revolving door for Sam. In that time he saw children, just like him, going through (in his eyes) far worse. His heart felt compelled that one day, when he was healthy again, he would make those terrible moments for others feel a little less painful, boring or depressing.
Over the years he’s developed a passion for guitar. (Even though his little brother, Nick thinks he has to finish his workbook to be considered a true pro.)
His passion also brought healing— an escape from the realities of being a teenager and coping with ITP.
Guitar was therapy for Sam – a little escape from ITP… and with the memories of the long hours at the hospital as a child still clear in his mind, he says it’s time to pay it forward.
Over the next few months, Sam is collecting instruments to donate to the music therapy program at the Golisano Children’s Hospital. But his mission doesn’t stop there. He’ll be working alongside the music therapists to teach pediatric patients how to play guitar. (I thought teenagers were supposed to be selfish, texting/instagraming minions?)
To Sam, this is a small act of kindness to tie into a school project. But its effects could potentially supersede the feeling the song ‘Happy’ bring on a bad day. It could bring healing. Healing for a child who is consumed by their chronic illness, that in a moment… one simple tune… one string of the guitar… could take their mind to another dimension and bring cope into their lives.
Damian Hanley: Tell me about this ministry and why you started it.
Sam Eusanio: It started as a task project at school. It was in collaboration with one of my friends, Connor. I was a patient at the Children’s Hospital at Healthpark for some time. My friend and I both play guitar, so we thought why don’t we teach kids at the hospital how to play instruments? But, then we decided to start a donation, too.
D: How are you getting those donations and what are you collecting?
S: We just started this process. We’re looking to the church to get some donations. We’re also going to local instrument stores and putting up fliers. We’re looking for new instruments, used, and even monetary donations. We’ll then team up with the hospital’s music therapy program and teach some guitar lessons to the pediatric patients.
D: How did having an instrument in the hospital help you while you were ill?
S: That’s the thing, I didn’t. I’d have to say, the time I was in the hospital was the most boring three days of my life. I know there are kids there who stay longer than that. I know if they had something to do, to just take their mind off their illness, it would help them through it.
D: If you don’t mind sharing, why were you in the hospital and what was it like?
S: I found out I had Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, also known as I-T-P. It’s an immune disorder where your immune system attacks your blood platelets. Your blood has a hard time with coagulation.
D: How did you find out?
S: I was 13 years old when I had little red dots all over my skin. We went into the doctor and then went to the hospital for blood tests. They say it’s actually common, but most people don’t have it long enough to actually have the full effect.
D: How has this changed your life? Tell me about your life now.
S: I want to go to college; I think the University of Florida. I want to go into the medical field. Specifically, I want to get my doctorate in biochemistry. I have an interest in human anatomy and biology, so being a doctor just seems like the right fit. You get to help people.
D: Explain to me the program at your school called C.A.S.? How is that part of your International Baccalaureate program?
S: It stands for Creativity, Action and Service. It’s a required course for IB students. You need 50 hours in CAS. In that, you have a project that must include at least two categories in the service. This project includes creativity and service.
D: How can people help your cause?
S: They can donate used instruments, purchase and donate new instruments or give a monetary donation, so we can purchase instruments. We’ll collect everything through Christmas and then bring them to the Children hospital’s music therapy program.
For more information or to help the cause contact Sam at: