“One good thing about music: When it hits you, you feel no pain."
A group of Mac students who share Bob Marley’s philosophy take part in a civic engagement project called the Medicinal Melodies, a vocal musical ensemble that uses music to raise the spirits of hospital patients. "There weren’t really any opportunities at Mac to use music to benefit the community,” says cofounder Beth Moretzsky ’13 (Randolph, N.J.).
The goal of the project, whose other cofounder is Bethany Battafarano ’13 (Omaha, Neb.), is to have students sing regularly for people who are struggling with disease. "When someone’s in the hospital it's really easy for them to become dejected and think that nobody cares," Moretzsky says. "After the initial wave of flowers and cooking, people don't really know what to do with you. Sick becomes the new normal."
Moretzsky knows this from personal experience. During her sophomore year of high school, her father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. Battafarano, too, has been closely affected by cancer. Her mother battled melanoma during Battafarano's high school years.
"Seeing her go through that experience and the loneliness and fear that go along with it, I know that even something as simple as music can alter that experience," Battafarano said. "Music puts a little moment of joy back into someone's life."
To learn more about how music can alter mood, the Medicinal Melodies group met recently with a music therapist who works with a children's hospice in Minneapolis.
For the last three years the Medicinal Melodies—who typically number about 16— have visited at least three health care establishments each semester. This fall they will sing at Lyngblomsten, a nursing home near the Mac campus; Clare Housing, an apartment complex for people living with AIDS in Minneapolis; and Hope Lodge, which provides overnight housing for cancer patients being treated in Twin Cities hospitals. They’ll also be performing with other Mac a cappella groups at Family Fest on Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. in Hill Ballroom, Kagin, and will be holding a benefit concert for Hope Lodge on Sat. Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. in Weyerhaeuser Chapel.
Medicinal Melodies has support from Macalester’s Action Fund, which provides grants to Macalester students for student-initiated and student-led community service activities.