Everybody has a story

June 11th, 2013 | SMWC

Jenny Plume
Jenny Plume 2012 graduate of music therapy

Everybody has a story. If we are lucky, our stories don’t include spending countless days in a hospital battling disease and illness as a child.

But take one songwriting music therapist trained at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Mix her with children coping with serious, sometimes terminal, health conditions at a Nashville, Tennessee children’s hospital. Toss in some of Nashville’s most talented music stars and you have a recipe for an album full of songs written from the heart and soul of kids dealing with troubles far beyond their young years.

The result is “Everybody Has A Story,” a collection of songs written by patients as part of their music therapy at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and recorded by some of Nashville’s hottest stars including Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Kix Brooks and more.

“It’s natural for children to use music as a medium to express themselves.  It can be through listening or playing, but in this case, it was through songwriting,” said Jenny Plume, songwriter and music therapist. A 2012 graduate of SMWC’s master of arts in music therapy program, Plume works with patients who use songwriting as a means of expressing emotions about their life and their illness. It’s a collaborative process with Plume drawing out thoughts and feelings from her patients and helping to set them to rhyme and then to song.

Some of those creations were surprisingly good which led her to think of recording them on her computer. And then she thought bigger. “We’re in Nashville. This is great! Why not get famous people to do this?” she said in a video interview. Before long, Nashville stars rose to the occasion. The kids had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see and hear their creations be recorded in the studio by some of the biggest names in country music. 

Proceeds from CD sales and downloads will benefit the music therapy program at the hospital through the Julian T. Fouce Music Therapy Fund established by Tom Fouce in honor of his son who was a musician and passed away at the hospital.

Establishing the fund was “something we thought was important to Julian,” said Fouce, who served along with Plume as co-executive producer of the album. Julian passed away at age 16 from leukemia before the hospital had a music therapy program. “He was his own music therapist,” said Fouce.

When Plume developed the program at the hospital, Fouce was unsure how the doctors and nurses would react. “We weren’t sure if they wouldn’t just see it as a recreational activity. But the doctors and nurses love it and see the medical benefits of it,” said Fouce.

Music is powerfully therapeutic. “Some might not use songwriting as a therapy because other methods may seem easier,” said Tracy Richardson, director of music therapy, at SMWC. “Jenny has chosen something that takes time and effort and requires building a relationship with her patients. These are important healing factors. She’s focused on what is best for the kids.”

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Plume later completed an equivalency in music therapy from Tennessee Tech before choosing to undertake her master’s in music therapy from SMWC. She was attracted to the counseling component of this distance program with its emphasis on imagery and improvisation.

“The Advanced Improvisation and Composition course was the perfect class for Jenny,” said Richardson. The course is taught by Alan Turry, PhD, of the world-renowned Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy. “Using improvisation opens up their worlds and causes kids to come out of their shells. It puts them on even ground regardless of their disability.” 

The album was released on May 14 and debuted at number 71 on Billboard magazine’s Christian and Gospel chart. It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, and iTunes. Check your local store for availability. A number of articles and news stories have been written about the project include those for USA Today and Parade magazine.

“I hope we can give a similar idea to other hospitals,” said Plume. And while the album is a uniquely Nashville-sounding project, “this can be done anywhere.”

To see a video of the project go to: http://www.countryweekly.com/news/artists-record-songs-written-vanderbilt-childrens-hospital-patients

Comment on this article

This story has been moved to the archive and comments have now been disabled.