Music Paves Highway to Healthiness



Dirty deeds can run dirt cheap, but the good work of a hospital can be mighty expensive. That's why, in addition to the presence of an international celebrity, the dedication of a new music therapy center in Sarasota Memorial Hospital's pediatric ward will prove important for setting the hospital apart.

Brian Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC and a longtime resident of Sarasota, will be on hand at an invitation-only event for the dedication of the Brian Johnson Music Therapy Center. The Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation sent out tickets that look like ticket stubs using the familiar font and lightning bolt from AC/DC's logo. The real work, though, starts in a few weeks when full-time child specialists in the center will oversee activities for children in extended visits to the hospital to benefit from therapeutic elements of the arts,

"You want to reduce fears and anxiety with a hospital stay," said hospital spokeswoman Kim Savage. With younger children, they could be helped simply by listening to an older parent or sibling make music in the room. For older pediatric patients, it could involve playing and recording songs themselves.

The center features amps, lighting, soundstage equipment, monitors and instruments. The capacity exists, Savage said, for children to compose lyrics and records cuts of the songs all within the therapy center.

It's an expansion of a music therapy room first employed at the hospital in 2008. With the expansion, hospital foundation officials are hopeful new recording stars may even be able some day to trace origins back here.

The event scheduled today accommodates Johnson's schedule; AC/DC has a new album on stands in December and will go on tour in 2015. Johnson and wife Brenda are the principal financial donors involved in this project, according to the Healthcare Foundation. "The community and especially the children who have been in the hospital will benefit from the Johnsons' generosity and caring support," said Foundation CEO Alex Quarles.

The center itself will start regular operations in about a month, Savage said, when the pediatric unit officially moves into a newly constructed courtyard tower.

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