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Wise words from cancer kids: ZapBoomBang Studios opens with a message of hope

Wise words from cancer kids: ZapBoomBang Studios opens with a message of hope

If there's one thing 16-year-old Emily Freeman wishes for everyone, it's to dream big and never, ever give up.

There's a bit of irony in her hope as she hasn't had a nighttime dream in a while, though not because she's not lacking a sunny disposition.

Freeman is undergoing cancer treatment at Texas Children's Hospital Cancer and Hematology Center, yet her life is full of pizzazz. In addition to getting dolled up for a disco-themed party or strutting down a fashion runway, Freeman can add a new line-item to her credits: Songwriter, singer and recording artist. 

On the particular day that we met Freeman, evidence of medical treatment was physically slowing her down, but her spirit sparkled like the beautiful shinning star she is; she was listening to lyrics and melodies that evince just how she feels inside.

Freeman has written and recorded her own songs with the help of the Purple Songs Can Fly Project, an initiative that uses songwriting to enhance healing founded by Houston tunesmith Anita Kruse.

 "For children who are being treated for life-threatening illnesses, they are experiencing life in a heightened state. They are open to ways to express what they are going through because it's so profound."

"The combination of words and music taps into the deepest parts of who we are as human beings," Kruse says. "Music has the power to change how we feel.

"For children who are being treated for life-threatening illnesses, they are experiencing life in a heightened state. They are open to ways to express what they are going through because it's so profound. Music is the perfect medium to capture what they have to share at this time in their lives."

Kruse's team, which includes artists Tricia Fox and Aaron Kaufman, regularly roams the halls of the hospital looking for patients who may benefit from music's therapeutic qualities. A recording studio set up on the pediatric floor encourages children being treated for cancer and blood disorders to speak through song.

Some of those songs have been heard aboard Continental Airlines in-flight playlists and on Space Shuttle Missions, and thanks to former astronaut Scott Parazynski a Purple Songs-branded prayer flag ripples on the summit of Mount Everest.

On this day, Freeman, along with Alex Harkins, Jesus Alvarez, Layla Borghese, Zachary Tavlin and Devin Duncan, are collaborating to contribute words and lyrics for the first song ever to be professionally recorded at the new ZapBoomBang Studios.

 "Anita matched the art of music and lyrics with something that's very frightening. When people hear their songs, they are moved because the songs are uplifting."

The swanky, posh workshop — the kind of space that doesn't have room for one more crystal chandelier or another textured graphic wallpaper — opened its doors this month.

"When you talk about [ZapBoomBang] being delicious, fabulous and over-the-top, we felt Purple Songs is just that, over-the-top," says ZapBoomBang general manager Patricia Torres-Burd, on why the studios chose to sponsor the recording project.

"Anita matched the art of music and lyrics with something that's very frightening. When people hear their songs, they are moved because the songs are uplifting."

It was up to Grammy Award-winning producer Andres Levin to transcribe the thoughts and feelings of the children into a song, record it at ZapBoomBang and submit to iTunes, with proceeds from the sales benefiting Purple Songs directly. The track is expected to be released in a couple weeks.

 "Something that I've learned through my journey  is that you can choose whether you are going to be happy or not in life."

Joining forces with Levin were Latin singer Gustavo Galindo, David Garza from Austin, Marsha Hancock from Nashville and New Yorker Suzanna Choffel, who alongside Levin donated their time and talent. ZapBoomBang took care of travel and accommodations to make "It's Out There Waiting" (a working title) happen.

The children wanted to convey a clear message, one of hope and perseverance.

"Something that I've learned through my journey, is that you can choose how you handle something, and you can choose whether you are going to be positive or not about it, or whether you are going to be happy or not in life," says Duncan, 19, who plans to beat cancer for the second time.

"I want people to understand that. Because it's not just going through cancer, it's any situation in life. There's always hope no matter what you are going through." 

Zapboombang, June 2012, artists
Artists (from left) Andres Levin, Suzanna Choffel, Marsha Hancock, David Garza and Gustavo Galindo at the recording session at ZapBoomBang Studios. Photo by Joel Luks
Zapboombang, June 2012, Emily, Devin
Devin Duncan (left) and Emily Freeman listen to a cut from their song, "It's Out There Waiting." Photo by Joel Luks
Zapboombang, June 2012, Anita
Anita Kruse says that "the combination of words and music taps into the deepest parts of who we are as human beings. Music has the power to change how we feel." Photo by Joel Luks
Zapboombang, studio, Ocean's Studio, Performing Studio
The song became the first ever to be recorded at ZapBoomBang. Picture here is the Ocean's Studio, the design nodding to the film Ocean's 11 and Rat Pack. Courtesy of ZapBoomBang Studios
Zapboombang, June 2012, artists
Zapboombang, June 2012, Emily, Devin
Zapboombang, June 2012, Anita
Zapboombang, studio, Ocean's Studio, Performing Studio