Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Musicians Perform at Children's Hospital in Vienna Today
Today, August 28, during the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's European Festivals Tour, Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley and Associate Principal Violist Tatjana Mead Chamis will share their talents with a very special audience. The pair will spend part of their day off visiting St. Anna Children's Hospital as part of the Pittsburgh Symphony's Music and Wellness program. They will play for the hospital's patients and staff from 2 to 3 p.m.
Pittsburgh Symphony violist Penny Brill, noted for her work with music therapists, will be guiding Bendix-Balgley and Chamis in learning popular Austrian tunes and interacting with the children. There will be a translator to assist with communication, and both Bendix-Balgley and Chamis are fluent in German. Brill pioneered the development of the Music and Wellness Program and played her viola for children at St. Anna's in 2012 while the orchestra was in residence in Vienna.
St. Anna Children's Hospital was founded in 1837 and is one of the oldest hospitals in Austria. The hospital treats children up to 18 years of age and specializes in blood disorders and cancer treatment. After last year's Music and Wellness session, St. Anna's hospital staff wrote to Brill, saying "It was a privilege for the audience, as well as the staff and family members present, to witness the delight and joy you brought to the sick children. Many of them are still asking when you will be back."
On August 29 and 30, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will perform at the Grafenegg Music Festival in Vienna before continuing onto Berlin for the next concert of the symphony's European Festivals Tour.
The Music and Wellness Program originated in 1999 when Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra violist Penny Brill was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the year following her diagnosis, she began researching ways of using music to reduce her anxiety, lessen the side effects of chemotherapy and reduce the amount of pain medication needed both during surgery and recovery. Since that time, Brill has worked tirelessly to make Music and Wellness an essential part of the work of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
It is the mission of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Music and Wellness Program to utilize the expertise of the staff and musicians of the PSO to serve as a resource to patients, families and healthcare staff in Western Pennsylvania in order to empower individuals to use music for the promotion of health and wellness.
In 2009, the PSO embarked on a collaboration with the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (CHP). Multiple PSO musicians now work with music therapists from the Child Life Department and staff from the Family Service and Resources Department to address the needs of patients, their families and CHP staff. A string quartet of PSO musicians plays two memorial services each year at CHP. These memorial services, for the families and caregivers of children who have passed away during the previous year, are very powerful healing tools and moving experiences for everyone involved. Along with other hospital support staff, CHP Music Therapist, Debbie Benkovitz, and Penny Brill have created a program which uses music to assist and support families and staff during the most difficult of times. Since 2011, the PSO has also brought Music and Wellness to the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System H.J. Heinz Campus.