That music has the prowess to affect our mood, psyche and overall state of wellbeing is something that most people innately understand. We reach for music in times of joy, for celebration and for comfort.
But to what extent can music influence recovery from illness? That's something that the Center for Performing Arts Medicine (CPAM) at The Methodist Hospital is eager to learn.
CPAM sits at an advantageous position to answer such a question. Nestled within the largest medical center in the country and with access to educators, world-class artists, art training institutions, art therapists, scientists and neurologists, in addition to state-of-the-art equipment, CPAM is primed to nurture collaborative partnerships to advance the field of integrative arts therapies, with the end goal to research and decode innovative strategies into practical, real-life applications.
And that expands beyond treating performing and visual artists. CPAM seeks to probe further into health, wellness and rehabilitation, as well as to study human performance.
The study assesses emotional responses through eye contact, facial expressions, body language, energy, enthusiasm and attention and catalogs them alongside specific creative activities.
In partnership with the Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers' Arts In Medicine program, the National Center for Human Performance, Young Audiences of Houston (YAH) and a $18,000 grant from The Children's Fund, a research project is surveying the impact of an arts integrated component on the general mood of children and their relatives in the hospital domain.
"What we know is that these programs touch patients and their families, and bring joy and a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tense environment," Todd Frazier, CPAM program director, explains.
Titled Characterizing Arts in Medicine Performance at the Impact on Audience Engagement and Mood at Texas Children's Cancer Center, the study delves beyond qualitative observations. It assesses emotional responses through eye contact, facial expressions, body language, energy, enthusiasm and attention and catalogs them alongside specific creative activities.
The goal is to codify the value and effectiveness of precise artistic endeavors to better inform artists and performers on how to design an Arts In Medicine program with the best possible outcomes.
"We know in our hearts that what we do makes a different . . . But in a research-driven industry, you need these studies to grow arts integrated programs and to secure funding."
To do just that, the approaches of YAH puppeteer Jean Kuecher, dancer/choreographer Toni Valle from Becky Valls and Company and classical chamber ensemble WindSync will be monitored by a team of "coders" gathered and trained by Dr. Heather Taylor, director of spinal chord injury research at TIRR Memorial Hermann. These coders will be required to study the flow of each program so they can readily identify each segment, transition and interactive component.
Pre and post performance questionnaires with the children and their parents will attempt to evaluate their temperament, including fear, fatigue, overall mood and physical pain. A pre and post artist interview will archive the experience from the point of view of the service provider.
The empirical data, in turn, will serve as advocacy material to better inform health administrators of what's possible with an expertly-crafted, research-based program.
"We know in our hearts that what we do makes a different," Herron says. "We see it and we hear it from children and their parents. But in a research-driven industry, you need these studies to grow arts integrated programs and to secure funding."
The study should be completed by spring of next year. Herron sees this multi-faceted project as just a beginning, one that will open up more opportunities for further fieldwork in arts integrated models.