Success and Stories

Music & Wellness

KSO members playing at UT Hospital


“I expected to wake up and have cancer today and to deal with treatment, but I did not expect something so beautiful in my day!”

~ Music & Wellness participant at UT Medical Center Cancer Institute


Physical Reactions to Music Therapy Sessions

Sarah Matayoshi and Alana Seaton in the University of Tennessee (UT) Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Sarah played for six patients using basic entrainment techniques, or matching the tempo of the music to the breathing of the patient, to achieve desired medical results. In four out of six patients there was a decrease in heart rate and an increase in pre-pulse oxygen saturation level (POS). One patient’s POS increased to a healthy 100%.

In the NICU, KSO violinist Sean Claire entered a patient’s room and moved to the right side of her crib as there was more space to play on that side of the room. This young patient followed the live music with her head turning it to the right. The infant had undergone reconstructive surgery on the right side of her neck and before this therapy session had only ever turned to the left!

Another patient in the NICU was born addicted to drugs and had trouble nursing. Nurses indicated that he cried incessantly as the staff tried to feed him. As Sean approached the room playing the violin, the baby stopped crying and was able not only to nurse, but to make eye contact with his caregiver for the first time. As Sean walked away, the crying began again. That day, Sean spent a lot of time in this patient’s room as the music worked in a way nothing else ever had!


The Rhythm of Wellness – A Narrative

It seemed like this would be yet another day of pain, another day of fighting to hold onto hope, another day walking toward what felt like an uncertain and isolated future. But today something would be different. Something would change in small and large ways. Today there was the promise of a new experience of support at the Cancer Support Community of East Tennessee. The calendar description of “The Rhythm of Wellness” welcomed all with the caption “No musical training necessary – percussion instruments are provided.”

As the drumming began, nerves and hesitation melted away among the community of new and familiar faces, old and new friends. Percussion instruments in hand, the group embarked on a journey of rhythm, music, and support guided by Music Therapist Alana Dellatan Seaton. A deep breath of hope, evidenced by the growing smiles of connection and relaxed laughter, filled the hearts and spirits of all present.


Playing with the Knoxville Symphony

Over 50 patrons of the Cancer Support Community of East Tennessee attended a special performance by the Knoxville Symphony Music & Wellness Quartet. At the event, Music Therapist Alana Dellatan Seaton was introduced in her role working with both KSO musicians and Cancer Support Community patrons. Alana led the group, introducing two African drumming patterns which were combined with a piece played by the KSO quartet. Reports from Cancer Support Community staff were that their community of clients was buzzing with how much fun was had by all during the performance, and that the new favorite phrase heard in the halls was, “We got to play with the Knoxville Symphony!”


In-School Programs

Members of KSO playing on Tennessee School for the Deaf page TSD Student looking at KSO member's instrument Students and orchestra members on stage

Tuesday, April 16, 2013: Students from Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD) with only partial hearing loss or cochlear implants had a visit from the KSO. They also attended a private Masterworks concert rehearsal.

Students from Tennessee School for the Deaf attended a rehearsal of the Verdi Requiem Tuesday, April 16, 2013.  About 45 minutes into the rehearsal, one of the students was frantically motioning to his teachers – the battery in his hearing device had gone out and he didn’t want to miss a moment of the orchestral sounds that he was hearing for the first time!  Incidentally, this same student kept staring at the soloist and finally caught her attention and got her to smile at him!


Very Young People’s Concert

Student Reactions

Child's Thank You Letter Child's Thank You Letter Child's Thank You Letter Child's Thank You Letter
Community Concert In Southwest Virginia

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Playing on stage

“Bob Makes our Day Again” – Andy Breyenton, KSO Principal Cello

A major mystery was solved yesterday, as a perennially exuberant fan from Tazewell, Virginia was identified at our Southwest Virginia Community College’s “No Limits” Festival of the Arts performance. His booming baritone “YEEAAAAAHHHHHH!” at the end of every piece–and sometimes before the end–was absent from last year’s show; we really missed being regaled so and were concerned for his well-being. But yesterday he was back, stronger than ever. I happened to see him clapping his hands; it was easy to spot him because his applause has the same larger-than-life gusto that his voice does. To give you some reference, his voice sounds (to me, anyway) like Phil Williams, of Knoxville talk radio fame.

So I arranged to meet him after the concert, Jennifer Barnett Harrell having neatly discovered that his name was Bob. I must admit, I was expecting some huge guy wearing overalls and maybe a John Deere cap, but what he wore would have also been appropriate at the races at Saratoga, and he was in very good shape for what I would place at about 78 years old. His wife Nona was with him. His name is Bob Nassif, and he moved to Richlands, VA, from Brooklyn as a child in 1939. He’s of Lebanese descent, and made his fortune in Richlands as a clothier back in the 50s and 60s, but what he told me next just absolutely made me do a face-palm. He talked of ancestors who had the last name Rizk who lived in the town of Southington, Conn. Ladies and gentlemen, that happens to be my hometown! Although I moved from there when I was two and didn’t get to meet all the neighbors.

Mr. Nassif had a very compelling explanation for his robust ovations and vocalizing. He stated that “when something hits me [makes an impression on him], I hit back.” The concert featured student soloists from SWCC’s music department, and each one of them was lauded generously-by name. It’s endearing to know that the effect our music has on some people spawns more than applause. Hardly a rehearsal goes by when we aren’t tempted to give a Bob-style cheer after running through a difficult passage.

(Editor’s Note: After Andy’s interview with Bob, the KSO received an e-mail later that week that read:A pleasure meeting you and the interview gentleman. Mary Lawson delivered the highly complimentary BLOG-it warmed our hearts. Your symphony brings Blessings to our area and to all you reach.  Always know that the “YEEAAAAAAAHHHHH” from Bob will echo in your hearts wherever you perform and look forward to next year.Thanks again and regards to all in the symphony!” -Bob Nassif)

For more information on the KSO Education & Community Partnerships programs, please contact the Director of Education & Community Partnerships.