CS Mott Children’s Hospital celebrated the grand opening of Sophie’s Place, a dedicated music therapy facility, on Wednesday. The $1.5 million studio allows patients to record music, participate in music therapy sessions and perform.
Sophie’s Place is named after Sophie Rose Barton, a music volunteer at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 17. After Sophie passed away, the Forever Young Foundation established Sophie’s Place in her name. The new studio in Mott is the sixth Sophie’s Place in the United States.
Steve Young, founder of the Forever Young Foundation, grew up with Sophia’s mother, Anne-Marie Barton. At the opening ceremony, he said Barb Young, his wife and co-chair of the Forever Young Foundation, first suggested honoring Sophia after she passed away. According to Steve Young, Barb had previous experience with music therapy with an injured friend in college.
“Everybody thought she was crazy,” Young said. “Like, ‘music therapy, what?’ But music therapy has now become so fundamental as life-changing therapy, not just for the music itself, (but) for what it does for the brain.
Music therapy — the use of music in a controlled environment to achieve health benefits — has been shown to improve functioning with mental disorders and reduce pain and stress, among other benefits. Sophie’s Place, which includes technology that enables live streaming into patients’ rooms, will allow Mott to triple the amount of music therapy he can provide to patients. David Miller, president of the University of Michigan Health System, spoke about the use of music therapy at Mott.
“We see that every day, that there are physical, medical and clinical aspects of providing care,” Miller said. “But there are also emotional, psychological and holistic aspects of care delivery that are so incredibly important, especially with our pediatric patients.” In this endeavour, Sophie’s Place, as part of our organization and our institute, will be such a catalyst for advancing the comprehensive and holistic care we provide.”
Elizabeth Sheeran, who performed at the grand opening, has been a patient at Mott for more than 10 years. Sheeran said music therapy helped her throughout the healing process.
“There’s something so special about the power of music,” Sheeran said. “And also, I think it’s kind of finding normalcy in a very abnormal situation… music can be such a normalizing and grounding thing.”
Sheeran, who was active in music and theater before she fell ill, said she was excited to use the instruments and recording studio at Sophie’s Place. But she said she didn’t even need to hear the music to feel the effects of the new facility.
“I could just sit there in silence,” Sheeran said. “There’s something about that place that makes you feel so peaceful and healing.” I could do anything in there.”
At the ceremony, Anne-Marie Barton said that Sophie’s Place will allow Sophie’s music to live on.
“Her songwriting journal, which she left behind — one of her eight personal journals — said, ‘I want to write 100 songs one day and sing for thousands of people,'” Burton said. “We are very grateful to this team who are really making it possible for Sophie’s wish to come true 12 years later.”
Barton’s husband, Kent, agreed that Sophie’s Place allows Sophie’s legacy to live on. He said that Sophie, as a young teenager, had written a list of things to do before she died. According to Kent Burton, that list included changing someone’s life.
“And that’s what’s happening today,” Barton said. “Sophie changes lives.”
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