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BW grad uses the power of music to help hospital patients

Photo of Audrey Zybura (Photo credit: TMC News)Everyone has their go-to playlist when they need to relax or cheer up. Audrey Zybura '16, who majored in music therapy at BW, is harnessing that power of music to help patients in the behavioral health unit at Houston Methodist Hospital through personalized playlists. These playlists, perfectly tuned to patients' musical tastes, can then be used in the unit's sound dome, a directional speaker offering an intimate listening experience.

Customized playlists

The sound dome provides patients under emotional crisis with a new way to regulate those emotions through music. First, Zybura leads patients through creating personalized playlists. While it might be expected that these playlists would be full of classical music and calming songs, Zybura explained in an article for TMC News that the playlists are based completely on patients' musical tastes.

"The playlists are 100 percent patient-selected and patient-preferred music, so there are often heavy metal and rap songs on these playlists. No matter what Spotify wants us to believe, there is not one type of music that is relaxing," Zybura shared in the article.

"Music you wouldn't press skip on"

The completed playlists contain about 30 minutes of songs and can be played inside the dome at any time of day. The sound dome offers audio isolation so that those inside the dome hear the music without background noise, while those outside the dome do not hear the music. The dome gives patients a tool they can control during times of emotional distress, and Zybura helps them to pick out the songs that will most help them in these moments.

"The music selections line up with the emotional process that the patient has outlined with me and the music that they connect with most. I always recommend using music you wouldn't press skip on," Zybura said in the article. "If you are in a moment that you really need something specific from the music, you don't want to rely on the unpredictability of the radio or the next thing that comes up on the shuffle."

Zybura is not the only BW music therapy major putting music to work helping hospital patients. Samantha Sinai '12 directs the music therapy program for a children's hospital, where she uses the power of music to bring joy to patients and families.

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