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Touching Lives through Music

September 3, 2013 | by Leora Friedman

Making a difference in people’s lives is more inspiring than any song.

Two years ago I wrote about how my vision for change led to the creation of a non-profit organization. When I was 15, my sister and I wrote an album of original songs for patients at a local children’s center. Subsequently, I fell in love with the project, called Music is Medicine, and aspired to reach more patients.

Now a senior in college, I spent the last three years learning how to think critically in the classroom, how to sing Jewish a cappella, how to build and maintain lasting friendships, and how to pursue a mission. My team members, the artists we work with, and the patients we help are all incredible individuals who inspire me to continue expanding the organization and to strive to be a better person every single day.

I’ll never forget meeting Brooke, a 14 year-old girl who was battling bone cancer at Johns Hopkins a little over a year ago. Through a project called Donate a Song, Music is Medicine recruited her favorite singer, Drew Seeley, to Skype with her and write an original song for her. A few months later, Drew flew to Baltimore to meet Brooke, play her the song, and film a music video with her.

“Today was the best day of my life,” Brooke told us. “The song is so inspiring and makes me wanna get up and walk.” Brooke listened to the song to motivate her during physical therapy, and her song influenced the entire world of music listeners, too.

Sadly, Brooke passed away not long after the song came out. “Brooke’s memory will forever be a keystroke away,” one of her loved ones told me.

Meeting Brooke changed my life. I was heartbroken when Brooke lost her battle with cancer, and my excitement for Music is Medicine slightly waned. But then I realized how important what we do truly is. “So many people have told me that they listen to Brooke’s song when they are going through something tough and say if Brooke could do all she did, I can do this,” Brooke’s mother told me. After that, I was more motivated than ever to grow Music is Medicine.

Bo and Singer Savannah Outen at Johns HopkinsBo and Singer Savannah Outen at Johns Hopkins

Since producing Brooke’s song, Music is Medicine has released Savannah Outen’s “Brave & True” for a patient named Bo, and will release “Live Out Loud” for Muriel and “Unsinkable” for Cindy next month. As my amazing team and I work to pair more artists with more patients, my dreams for Music is Medicine have evolved. I want people to see music as a vehicle for social change. I want artists to use their music to give back, and I want the music industry to encourage artists to do so.

Through mtvU’s “Random Acts” series, I recently walked the red carpet of the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards alongside Glee’s Darren Criss to convey these dreams to the media. That night was a whirlwind of lights, cameras, and glitter but mostly a dream come true for our cause.

I hope that our work and the publicity we gained from the VMAs prompt more artists to participate in Music is Medicine. But, more than that, I hope that our team and volunteers help create a better, happier world. The other day, a friend of mine told me that our work “isn’t just for the kids who get the songs.” I was baffled. But isn’t it? “It’s for everyone else out there who sees this happen and then does something little to help someone else out.” Wow, I thought. He’s right. In that case, from Music is Medicine to my daily actions, every little thing can make an invaluable imprint on the world.

In reflecting on my past, I realize that I was very lucky to grow up with incredible parents and teachers who supported my goals and instilled in me the Jewish value of helping others – Tikkun Olam, fixing the world. They taught me to appreciate everything on Earth as a gift from God and to recognize the role that I can and should have in improving God’s world. Because of this, I have found not only a sense of responsibility but also a sense of beauty in helping others.

I strive to be a role model in every aspect of my life – from what I say on a red carpet interview to what I say to a friend in need. I feel very grateful every day to have the ability to make a difference through Music is Medicine. And I know that everyone has that ability, with or without an organization, from the way we treat our family and friends to the way we treat total strangers. And while I definitely believe a song is inspiring, making a difference in people’s lives is more inspiring than any song.


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