For four years I was Musician-in-Residence at Rush University Children's Hospital through Snow City Arts Foundation. Each year 40,000 hospitalized children regularly miss school because of their need for treatment. Snow City Artists provide meaningful arts education to these children, most between the ages of 6 and 18. We work (collaborate) with them to boost their confidence, stimulate their minds, and teach them that they are contributing members of their community's cultural dialogue. Our program provides a nurturing and supportive artistic environment that is the utmost positive expression of hope. "The doctors find the illness, we find the artist."

The following tracks were created during daily general music workshops which take place in interested patient's hospital rooms or in the Idea Lab, our studio for artists-in-residence. I work one on one with patients or occasionally in small groups. The content of these workshops is determined by the common creative interests of the patients and I, and can include anything from basic skills on an instrument (drums, guitar, piano, digital music programming) to much more elaborate creative projects involving other media (visual art, poetry, photography, filmmaking, animation). The imagination and mood of the patient and I define what we do together. I never know how long we will have to work together or who might be in the room, or anything about their medical situation. The resulting work is truly collaborative, and always educational. Through a partnership with the Chicago Public School system, patients are eligible for school credit for their work with the artists.


This poem was written by Ashley, working with another artist-in-residence, poet Dan Godston. Ashley has such an expressive voice and character that I suggested we record her reading the poem. Later she and I arranged the music, and then worked on refining performance techniques with voice and rhythm for the overdub. She diligently recorded seven takes, listening back and improving her dynamics and timing with each take until she was satisfied.


This piece was written and performed by a 16 year old patient during a very intense few weeks of treatment at the hospital. He was extremely grateful to have a concise method of sharing with people where he had been and what he had been through without having to tell a very difficult story over and over. He wrote the lyrics and came to me for help designing a digital rhythm foundation to support his vocals and record onto CD. His father, who was a doctor at the hospital, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to see his son so engaged in a creative project in the midst of a severe depression, regardless of the difficult nature of the material.


Adam, age 12, is a drummer and guitarist who comes from a musical family and is fluent with his iPhone music apps. At the moment he was more interested in digital composition than in playing any instruments. He chose some tracks while his grandfather, a lifetime bass player with a wonderful gravelly voice, told stories of his early days as a bass player in Chicago. We asked him to sing a typical bass line that might fit. Then we cut and pasted and looped until we came up with an arrangement that we liked.


A collaborative cover song (by Beck) made with a 26 yr old patient who was also a professional musician.


Cristian, 9, explores the idea of strength.


Lillie, age 16, wrote this poem on her own and then came to me to help orchestrate and record it.


Abel, 16, worked with Snow City Artists for over 4 years while receiving his dialysis treatment, which takes four hours and must be done 3 days a week. He loves Reggaeton and brought in two of his favorite CDs to educate me. We listened critically to them together, identifying key elements the artists combined to create their tracks. We then arranged this original composition using Garageband, a digital music program, augmenting loops with Abel's voice and laugh. We had to manually adjust the drum loops to create the right rhythm and sound combinations. The piece is unfinished as Abel was transferred to another dialysis center.


Although Jaime, age 9, plays electric guitar, he was more interested in the recording equipment. His mother, a professional musician herself, taught me this Mexican song. I taught Jaime how to use the equipment so he could act as recording engineer, responsible for giving cues, adjusting levels, and making critical decisions for getting a quality recording from his hospital bed while his mother and I played and sang this duet.


Jarred, age 9, drew a comic strip with one of the visual artists-in-residence. We then animated it with this soundtrack.


A reading of a particularly magical piece of writing.


A musical poem about gloves.