Recording Studio Opens at Texas Children's Hospital

A new music recording studio is open in town at the Texas Children's Hospital Cancer Center. The studio space was built so pediatric cancer patients and their siblings could write and record songs. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Gracie Johnson is six years old and is diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She's had the disease since she was three and is being treated at Texas Children's. She wrote a song called "I'm a Work of Art" describing how she feels about herself and the way she looks.

"First I was trying to make this mask for mardis gras and the string kept on breaking when I got it on my head so that's how I thought of 'my head's too big.'"

Gracie is one of a number of children who have already recorded music in the new studio at the hospital. The project is called Purple Songs Can Fly and was conceived by Anita Kruse. Kruse is a musician who often volunteers at the hospital as a visiting artist under the Arts in Medicine program. She says they already had visual art and creative writing as part of the program, but no one-on-one music and she thought it would be good for the kids to have another creative outlet.

"We first work on a lyric and we work on putting it to some sort of song lyric form. And then some of the children hear a melody, some of them already have a melody in their minds. Sometimes we just start playing chords and they'll hear a melody. So it's a little bit different with every child, but we usually start with words and then create music underneath it."

Each child leaves the studio with a CD of their own recording. The songs will also be played on Continental Airlines international flights. Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer is the director of the long-term survivor program at Texas Children's. She says one thing they know about their patients is inside there are a lot of very deep emotions going on, despite the happy faces on the outside.

"One of the things that surprised me is that some of our most quiet children have done some of our most profound work. It's just striking the pride in the children's faces when we hear their music. And a huge part of the message is that childhood cancer is curable in 70 percent of children and most people don't even know that fact. So hopefully with that music out there in the world now traveling around the world, being listened to on Continental, people will get that message and see these stories and know the stories of our children."

The Purple Songs Can Fly studio is equipped with keyboards, microphones, a digital recording station and plenty of purple inspiration. The studio was funded through donations. You can hear the complete version of Gracie Johnson's song on the web at Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Click to Listen to I'm a Work of Art by Gracie Johnson

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