23 October 2019 Featured News

She’s got the music in her…

Dr Jeanette Kennelly started her working life as a music teacher, but always believed there was a role for music in meeting health and well-being needs.  Having always wanted to move beyond the use of music in a classroom setting, Jeanette didn’t hesitate to return to study when The University of Queensland offered a postgraduate music therapy course.    25 years on, and after completing her PhD in music therapy, Jeanette’s passion and belief in the therapeutic benefits of music is as strong as ever.

As Clinical Lead, Jeanette heads a team of five music therapists based at Queensland Children’s Hospital.  Last year the team celebrated 25 years of providing music therapy to sick and injured kids.  “We are so privileged to be able to work with families using music as a therapeutic medium.  There is so much that music can help with from calming and settling to speech, memory and movement rehabilitation” Jeanette said.

Very few departments are untouched by music therapy and the team work with patients from Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, oncology, burns, rehab, cystic fibrosis, cardiac, triage, infants and those in Emergency Department.  Medical, nursing and allied health staff know the benefits music therapy provides, so any member of a child’s healthcare team can refer them to the service.  This can be a planned regular or one-off session, or an urgent need for assistance in the Emergency Department.

When music is used in a therapeutic context it can help with a huge range of healing needs.  “We are always reminding parents that they always have their voice and for a distressed or even unconscious child, hearing their parents sing can be very comforting.  It’s familiar and the child connects with the sound, it can remind them of home, family, and happy places “Jeanette added.  “Music can help calm a child while an injection is given, provide a beat or rhythm for children learning to walk again, or help with memory and learning to speak again by initially singing words and phrases before trying to say them”.

Jeanette has many lovely and touching stories from over the years and has worked with an incredible number of families it is hard for her to single one out, but there was one child who she said has remained with her for a long time.  “We had a teenage boy referred to us when he became very withdrawn and isolated following a cancer diagnosis.  We introduced song writing techniques as a way for him to express himself and towards the end of his life he began to write and share his own songs with us.  His songs were always about being resilient and wanting to fight for as long as he could.  Before he passed away, he recorded a CD which was then used by the family to reminisce and remember the inspirational young man he was.  Knowing music brought him and his family comfort at such a difficult time has always stayed with me as a reason why I do what I do” said Jeanette.

Through the generosity of our amazing supporters, the Children’s Hospital Foundation is extremely proud to be able to fund the music therapy service at Queensland Children’s Hospital.  Jeanette said, “We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for supporting this service for over 25 years.  It really does make a difference to sick children and their families and without the Foundation we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do this.”

If you would like to find out more about how music therapy could help your child please visit the Australian Music Therapy Association website.