Beeps, buzzes, pokes and prods – time in the hospital can be stressful and unsettling. But in New Jersey, for the last four years, the sweet sound of the symphony has soothed patients, caregivers and staff. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s (Horizon BCBSNJ) partnership with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) has drowned out the alarms and loudspeakers with the NJSO Music and Wellness Program, bringing the health benefits of music right into the hospital room.
From boosting moods and alleviating stress to reducing pain and improving blood flow, music has been shown to have positive health effects. In fact, listening to music before an operation can even improve outcomes. One study showed classical music improves the recovery of stroke patients.
“Our mission is to transform the care of the people of New Jersey, and coupled with the numerous studies that show the healing power of music, we knew this was a partnership we wanted to be a part of,” said Eduardo Lara, vice president of marketing and product development at Horizon BCBSNJ. “The NJSO enriches the lives of so many, and we are pleased to be able to bring their music to hospitals and medical facilities through this exceptional program.”
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra plays as many as 75 concerts through the Music and Wellness program each year. While they partner with several groups, including Hackensack Meridian Health, Delta Dental and Bloomberg Philanthropy, the relationship with Horizon BCBSNJ is unique because it brings the program to children’s hospitals including Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and even the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Goryeb Children’s Hospital.
“One of my favorite stories is of a teenager who had developed some depressive symptoms, regularly turning down any treats or extras hospital staff or volunteers offered,” said Judy Yin-Chi Lee, the symphony’s director of community engagement. “But as our musicians were playing through the halls of the hospital, he let us come into his room to play, sharing that he was in his school band.”
Music builds a sense of community and has been shown to bring people closer. For children in the hospital, feelings of isolation and loneliness are common. Through the Music and Wellness Program, whether it is a bedside duet, storytelling or Broadway’s greatest hits, the NJSO and Horizon BCBSNJ are promoting healing through music offering patients, staff and caregivers the opportunity to find temporary relief from the daily toll of hospital life while enjoying the many benefits of music.
“Music is so powerful,” says Lee.
Many patients and their families excitedly engage with the musicians, participating in the stories and trying their hand at playing an instrument. Others simply relax and listen. While the musicians are members of the symphony and not music therapists, medical staff know the performances are bringing joy and comfort to patients and their loved ones.