Bring on Beethoven!

Gentle melodies strummed on a 6-foot tall harp lift into nurseries where critically ill newborns cling to life at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “It just puts them in a more restful state,” says student musician Betty-Ashton Andrews, who is experimenting with music to help infants. “It makes it easier to grow and heal.” There is only budding scientific proof that such therapy helps newborns, but that does not dissuade Andrews, from conducting her once-weekly concerts at the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit. Nurses and parents say they note subtle changes in the babies when Andrews plays the most welcome balm for a trying time. For the babies, it muffles the frightening sounds of machines and unusual voices, and soothes them to sleep when their mother cannot. Neonatal infant care unit manager Diane Deslauries said the babies’ heart rates seem to go down and they seem to rely less on their respirators when they hear harp music. This Health Mystery seems like a sound massage of sorts!