Henry Ford Health System Kicks Off David DiChiera Music Therapy Program with Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Michigan Opera Theatre

August 11, 2020
David DiChiera

DETROIT – Henry Ford Health System, in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT), has begun offering virtual musical performances to cancer patients via its music therapy program named for the founding general director of Michigan Opera Theatre, David DiChiera. Through the David DiChiera Music Therapy Program, patients of Henry Ford Cancer Institute will be able to enjoy both live and archived virtual performances from the DSO and MOT at no cost.

Live performances, called “Live Music with the DSO,” will take place from noon – 1 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month. MOT’s program will take place on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 2 p.m., beginning in September 2020. Patients will be able to tune-in on iPads at Henry Ford Cancer Institute or via a link sent to their email.

“The Henry Ford Cancer Institute is a global destination for patients who travel from different countries and even different continents to receive the best possible care,” said Megan Winkel, Manager of the Healing Arts Program at Henry Ford Cancer Institute. “Research studies have shown music therapy can reduce pain and discomfort, improve mood, diminish stress, increase quality of life and allow patients to better communicate. Even beyond those benefits, this program will not only provide entertainment and relaxation for patients, but also allow them to experience some of Detroit’s culture while they focus on healing.”

The DSO and MOT have long been fixtures in Detroit’s culture. The DSO performed its first subscription concert in 1887, and MOT was founded by DiChiera in 1971. The DSO and MOT are today making virtual musical performances available with initiatives like the DSO Replay, an archive of free orchestra webcasts from the DSO, and MOT's digital initiative, MOT at Home, which provides regular opera and dance content, including virtual performances, podcasts, blogs and more. Now, the two organizations are expanding digital offerings even further through this partnership with Henry Ford.

“Music is courageous, unifying, powerful, and calming, and we know that it can be healing too,” said Anne Parsons, DSO President and CEO. “The DSO has found innovative ways to keep the music playing during the pandemic, and we’re very fortunate to be able to continue giving back to our community through partnerships like this one with Henry Ford Health System and our friends at Michigan Opera Theatre. David DiChiera was an incredible ally of the DSO, a champion of culture in Detroit, and a dear friend. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to touch the lives of cancer patients through music and pay tribute to David’s legacy.”

“Our founder Dr. David DiChiera was passionate about the power of music and the arts,” said MOT President and CEO Wayne S. Brown. “We are honored to partner with Henry Ford Health System to support the comfort and healing of Henry Ford Cancer Institute patients through the art form of opera.”

DiChiera's daughters, Lisa and Cristina, credit family friend Joanne Danto as the driving force behind the creation of the David DiChiera Music Therapy Program.

Joanne heard from David how music helped him during his cancer treatment, and he wanted others to have the same opportunity to experience his love of musical performance. This program was made possible thanks to generous support from the Marvin and Betty Danto Family Foundation. Danto serves as vice president, secretary and trustee of the Marvin and Betty Danto Family Foundation.

“David taught all of us so much about giving and about diversity. He helped us connect to one another through music, opera and dance. This is a heartwarming, energetic, and loving way to honor my dear friend,” said Joanne. “He would be so proud of the thoughtful and caring effort all of you have engaged in to create this honor to him. He really did love Henry Ford Hospital and the so many people he connected to there. I am honored to extend my love and appreciation for all that Dr. DiChiera was. He was a bright light that we will remember always through all that he gave to us.”

“When Joanne Danto told our father that the Danto Family Foundation wanted to fund a Music Therapy Program at Henry Ford Hospital in his name, he was immensely honored,” Lisa DiChiera said. “He lived by his belief that music has the power to comfort and heal. We wish he could be with us to experience this wonderful gift to Henry Ford's patients, families and staff. He received wonderful care and treatment at Henry Ford Hospital and viewed it as another home.”

The first event on July 29 featured a live violin performance from Adrienne Rönmark, who has been a member of the DSO’s 1st Violin section since 2008, and live bassoon and contrabassoon performances from Marcus Schoon, who has been the contrabassoonist of the DSO since September 1992.

“The first online performance for cancer patients through the David DiChiera Music Therapy Program was beautiful and incredibly moving,” said Cristina DiChiera. “The music was a joy to listen to and seeing the musicians up close and hearing them talk about their work and the music they have dedicated themselves to is truly inspiring. We felt our father's presence in that hour of music and healing - he would have loved it!”

Music therapy dates back to the early 1800s and has emerged over time as powerful tool to support patients through the healing process. Today, there are more than 70 music therapy programs in the United States. The use of music as a therapeutic intervention is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, substituting healthy thoughts, feelings and physical actions for dysfunctional ones. Patients are conditioned to associate the music they are listening to, playing or singing with a relaxation state.

To learn more about the Healing Arts program at Henry Ford Health System, visit henryford.com/services/cancer/support/healing-arts.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:  
Henry Ford Health System:  
Jeff Adkins / (586) 307-2027 / jadkins6@hfhs.org

Detroit Symphony Orchestra:
Ben Breuninger / (610) 955-7348 / bbreuninger@dso.org  

Michigan Opera Theatre: 
Erica Hobbs / (517) 677-9453 / ehobbs@motopera.org

Photo credit: Michigan Opera Theatre