The Woman's Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital Hosts "Tune Up!" to Raise Awareness for Music Programs

Northwestern Medicine
News September 03, 2015
Hitting the right notes together: Eileen Hammersmith and Matthew Sakumoto, MD, (center) are joined by The Woman’s Board “Tune Up!” event co-chairs Suzette Bulley (far left) and Lisa Smyth (far right).

The Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital is hosting a night of music and mingling with the musicians who volunteer for Music Matters Med at “Tune Up!”  The fundraising event will be held on Sept. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Casino, 195 East Delaware Place, Chicago.  Also featured will be a special performance by keyboard player Marty Sammon, who plays with blues legend Buddy Guy.

The brainchild of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine graduate Matthew “Matt” Sakumoto, MD, and former cancer patient Eileen Hammersmith, “Music Matters Med” is bringing the healing power of music therapy to hundreds of patients at Northwestern Memorial. 

“I’ve always been musical -- I play the guitar and the trumpet-- and I’ve always loved to share music with others and to see how music can bring people together,” said Matt.  “Thanks to serendipity or good luck or happy coincidence, my path crossed Eileen’s and in the past year and a half, we have been able to create a program that really touches patients and their loved ones on a very personal level.”

Volunteers for “Music Matters Med” visit patients in the chemotherapy, neurology and cardiac care units at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, sharing their musical gifts and bringing comfort and well-being to those in need.  The volunteers are also trained to deliver compassionate care and conversation to anxious or lonely patients and their families in the hospital.  Scientific research has shown that music therapy yields a number of benefits, including pain relief, stress reduction, speech recovery, improved motor functions, memory and sleep patterns, and emotional support.  

“When I was fighting my illness, music helped me through many difficult times and absolutely made a difference in my strength, my hope, and my perseverance.  Through ‘Music Matters Med,’ we want to reach out to patients and their families, talk with them, and share music with them in the hopes of lifting their spirits and giving them some comfort,” said Eileen.  

“Music Matters Med” is now providing more than 350 patients with more than 100 hours of live music at the bedside. 

One of the volunteers, Melanie Zhang, has been playing the flute for most of her life, and is currently enrolled as a medical student at the Feinberg School.

“Music is something that is so important to me; it will always be a part of my life.  I know that, without music, I’d feel like a part of me was missing.  I think music is a universal language that we all can share and enjoy, so I love being able to bring music to other people and to create connections and moments that we all can remember,” said Melanie.  

The Woman’s Board first heard about the impact of musician volunteers from Stephanie McKean, Vice President of The Woman’s Board, who benefitted personally from the hospital’s music program. “When my mother was in the hospital, we were visited by two violinists,” said Stephanie.  “The beautiful music brought such joy to my mother and transformed her day.

The music helped her forget for a time that she was ill and brought her out of her immediate circumstances. We were so grateful for the music every time the musicians came to visit during her stay, and I am thrilled that The Woman’s Board is able to help Eileen and all of the wonderful volunteers continue to bring live musicians to visit patients.”

In order to raise money for the program, increase awareness and showcase the talents of the musicians, The Woman’s Board and many of the musical volunteers will come together at “Tune up!” for a fun evening with friends and live music. Proceeds of the fundraiser will go towards supporting the efforts of the volunteers of “Music Matters Med.”