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The Healing Power of Music Therapy

Chris Wildman, head of music therapy at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, addressed residents of Helderberg Village in Cape Town on Thursday, 30 April as he described the healing power of music when it comes to the thousands of little patients that he helps to treat on a yearly basis.  

“Music therapy is the experience of music making and the relationship with it as a dynamic force for change. If a sick child is depressed and gives up, he or she loses the will to live. Music is a lifeline,” Wildman said.

Describing the children that he treats at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Wildman said that music making was a social experience and that he worked to create an atmosphere where children shared the experience while in the wards. “When children cheer each other up, they teach each other how to heal.”

Drawing from his own experiences in life, he explained, “Music is like a friend, it’s talking back to you and it’s supporting you. Instruments give children an opportunity to express how they are feeling in that space where they are sick or injured.”

To the delight of attendees, guest violinist Anele Mhlahlo performed at the event. The talented, young Cape Town musician started playing the violin at the age of 12 and is currently working towards his teaching and performance diploma through Trinity College of Music London, studying with the esteemed Professor Jack de Wet.  He is also the second principal violinist with the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

Mhlahlo spoke to the crowd about his experience with the violin, explaining that he was taught to express himself through music because words could be limiting, but music could truly say so much. He said, “I had to persevere with this really difficult instrument and it really tested my faith. I’ve realised that music is the reason that I’m alive and I’m going to use it as a tool to inspire, to add value and to change lives. Music is not leisure to the soul, it’s a process that makes us heal.”

The event was organised by the Children’s Hospital Trust’s Circle of Life Legacy programme, which encourages people to plan ahead, by leaving a legacy gift or a bequest in their Will to the Children’s Hospital Trust. This ensures that future children will benefit from world class medical facilities for years to come. Those leaving a donation in their Will also ensure that their legacies live on long after they are gone, helping children to reach their important milestones in life.

Head of the Circle of Life Legacy programme, Liz Linsell, said, “The event allowed us to give people an understanding of the role that the Children’s Hospital Trust plays in supporting the Red Cross Children’s Hospital when it comes to helping sick and injured children. We also wanted to really highlight the importance of music as a therapy to assist children in their healing journeys back to childhood. We are incredibly grateful to Helderberg Village residents and Trust supporters, Chris and May Bradley, who hosted the event.”


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