St. Jude music therapists organize backyard jams for kids
Amy Love had to leave the Memphis hospital where she brings music to severely ill children — she and other support staff couldn’t take the risk of spreading COVID-19 to these frail patients.
But she was determined: The music must not stop.
So her house became a recording studio, and Love, fellow music therapist Celeste Douglas and intern Abigail Parrish became video stars for kids at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital who feed on their energy, their melodies, their love.
“Let’s get moving!” Love cries, as she sits cross-legged on a blanket in her backyard.
They play guitars and little drums, shakers and tambourines, and Love’s dog joins in on the fun — even as a lawn-mowing neighbor seems a bit puzzled.
“We’re really excited to be with you today, even if we can’t be there in person,” Douglas tells their early childhood group from afar.
No instruments? No problem. Love urges their viewers: “Just move around with us!”
The familiar tunes they choose to help the kids with fine and gross motor skills, body awareness and other trouble areas they’d usually take on in the hospital include “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
For older patients, Love left behind some ukuleles with easy instructions and song selections from Twenty One Pilots and Selena Gomez.
Entertainer Danny Thomas opened the pediatric treatment and research hospital for children with catastrophic diseases in 1962. Care is free for all. Since many of the patients are immune deficient, Love and other support staff are working remotely.
The hospital’s two resident therapy dogs are on hiatus off campus, as well.
“What we’re doing is finding new ways to support our kiddos and keep them safe at the same time,” Love said.
In the hospital, the team holds the early childhood music group once a week for kids up to 3 years old.
“That’s one thing I’ve really missed,” Love said. “We’d all get together and play tons of music and were super loud.”
Switching gears was a bit of a learning curve, she said. Like the ukuleles. Asking kids to teach themselves the instrument could have gone either way, but Love was optimistic.
“It’s a really easy instrument to feel really successful with,” she said. “You can mark up different parts of the ukulele and play it pretty easy. Even with one finger you can be successful and play a chord.”
Love can’t wait for the day she can return to the hospital. In the meantime, she has a mission.
“Music is not canceled,” she said. “We’re going to continue playing music until we can all get back together again.”