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Hearing Is Believing

Maryville University Program Taps Healing Power Of Music To Help Children Give Voice To Their Feelings

Maryville University’s Music Therapy Program leaders in 2009 began an initiative that helps children cope with the unique set of emotional challenges stemming from their cancer or blood disorder diagnoses by tapping into the healing power of music. The innovative program, Kids Rock Cancer, works in concert with modern studio technology and each child’s own capacity for songwriting. Impressively, a total of 870 songs have been produced within the program to date. 

“Music moves the human spirit in many rewarding, inspiring ways,” says Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville University. “Our Kids Rock Cancer program gives young people the freedom to be creative, to express their feelings and to share their experience in a language we can all appreciate.”

Kids Rock Cancer is based on successful models in other U.S. cities and works in tandem with pediatric cancer centers in the St. Louis region.

Under the direction of Tracie Sandheinrich, a St. Louis-based, certified music therapist who travels with a state-of-the-art portable recording studio, children participating in the Kids Rock Cancer program are encouraged to write lyrics and a melody, and then record their personal song in their own voice on a CD or thumb drive to take home and keep.

"Engaging in this creative process provides young people with a vehicle for self-expression, a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment, a distraction from emotional and physical pain and a sense of joy and optimism," explains Tracie.

For program preparation, Tracie says they visited successful programs similar to Kids Rock Cancer, including the Purple Songs Can Fly project at Texas Children’s Cancer Center in Houston. “Maryville’s program provides some bright moments in the lives of young people as they focus on healing and recovery,” she says. 

Interlace Health President and Kids Rock Cancer council member, Randy Campbell, says the exchange and association with the program has been amazing. "The incredible passion and dedication with the work that's done in helping these kids fight very courageous battles with cancer is incredible," he attests.

"I didn't know what music therapy was before, but seeing how music heals in action, and how it helps people find their inner voices, is therapeutic and enlightening as well," adds Randy. 

Ebonee Shaw, Maryville's program director for the Kids Rock Cancer program, says a total of 1,957 "experiences" have been completed through June 2021 since this program's inception. "We've had 966 studio sessions, with some of the students performing or being interviewed on our Facebook Live segments," she adds. 

She says another blessing comes from a studio that was built for the program in Creve Coeur at The Light Foundation, near Olive and Spoede roads, so those who want to gather at a particular spot have a confirmed location. 

To listen to songs created by participants, visit

Ebonee says siblings of participants, or parents who are diagnosed, also can compose songs through the program. For more information about joining or supporting Maryville University’s Kids Rock Cancer program, contact Ebonee at 314.529.9349 or email

Founded in 1872, Maryville University is a four-year, private university located in West St. Louis County.

  • Gabrielle
  • Giovonni