Since becoming a MyMusicRx volunteer in 2015, Matt Berning has played an amazing 112 hours of music for kids and staff at Randall Children’s Hospital. However, music isn’t the only reason he’s involved with CCA. Matt himself has been living with a cancer diagnosis, and this inspired in him a desire to connect with children and families on that same journey. Through the experience of his own treatment, Matt has brought valuable insight and understanding to children and families in the hospital while also helping his own healing.
How did you get involved with CCA?
“I moved back to Portland in early 2015. At the time, I was recovering from brain surgery and radiation treatment for glioblastoma multiforme [recurrent brain cancer], and was still undergoing chemotherapy. I wasn’t able to return to work, but I was capable of spending a few hours each week out in the community, and I was looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of local youth. Music has always been important to me, and so the MyMusicRx volunteer program was a natural fit.”
What has your experience in the hospital meant to you?
“Having spent time in hospitals for my own health, it is very meaningful to be in that same environment helping others going through similar situations. I was an adult when my health problems presented, and I can only begin to understand how much more difficult it is for these kids, and for their siblings, parents, doctors, and nurses. The whole situation is hard, emotionally. Being here in this environment and doing something positive has been very rewarding.
Music has always been an important part of my own life; it has always been a creative outlet for me. I think back to my own time in the hospital as a patient, and how much of a difference it would have made for me had that hospital had a music program like MyMusicRx. That’s a big part of what makes me feel so good about my role as a volunteer musician.
Selfishly, I also do it for myself! If the building were empty, I would still come here to play music for a couple of hours each week, because I love music and it is an important part of my own healing process.”
What about music brings you joy?
“It’s the main creative outlet in my life. Externally, it’s a way to communicate with someone without ever having talked to them, and that’s really special. There are people with whom I might struggle to find anything else in common, but we might both enjoy music. There are also people for whom music isn’t all that important, but even if it only serves as a distraction from emotional or physical pain and helps them get through that, then I’ve done my job. One way or the other, I can make a positive, meaningful impact on someone’s life.”
Why do you think music is important in a hospital setting?
“The whole ecosystem of the hospital is helped by music. The direct interaction with patients is probably fairly self-explanatory, but that’s only one part of the equation. The way I see it, if I can make a doctor’s day better (or a nurse, or any of the hospital staff) that can only lead to better care for the patient.
Another big reason for having music in the hospital is the siblings; the hospital setting can be really tough for a sibling. Naturally, the parents will focus on the child that’s the patient, but that can be very hard for a sibling because they’re cooped up in the hospital with not a whole lot to do. They’re bored, and they feel ignored. Music is a nice diversion. Some of my favorite days here are when siblings come hang out with me.
A great thing about this program is that we have instruments and the kids can learn. I’ve talked to parents who have said that Randall Children’s Hospital is a great hospital and all aspects of the care are great, but the best part was the music. Parents have mentioned that their child, who had no previous interest in music, now wants to take piano lessons. There’s an opportunity for our program to provide a really positive outcome from a very difficult situation.”
What are a few of your most requested songs?
“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is probably topping the charts. There are kids who only want to listen to that on loop. I’ll try to mix in You Are My Sunshine or another classic, but they won’t have any of it! I remember one little girl who would calmly state “again” as soon as I sang the last line of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She knew what she wanted!”
Thank You, Matt
A heartfelt thank you from CCA to Matt and the rest of our dedicated MyMusicRx volunteers and Specialists who fill the hallways of our partner hospitals with music. If you believe in the healing power of music and want to help; donate an instrument from our Amazon wish list or sign up to volunteer as a musician in the hospital.