AUSTIN (KXAN) — For more than 26 years, JoyRx has been bringing live music and instrumental lessons to children and teenagers hospitalized, battling cancer or facing health complications. Now, the organization is working to expand its footprint in the Austin area to connect more children with music as a form of healing.
JoyRx started in Portland, Oregon before expanding its efforts to Austin in 2018. To date, it offers services at St. David’s Children’s Hospital, Dell Children’s Comprehensive Care Clinic and Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center. Elke Downer, music program manager, said JoyRx is building up its Austin team and working to hire its first staff music specialist.
As with many things, the COVID-19 pandemic forced JoyRx to adapt its programming to digital-only music lessons, performances, interactive games and on-demand services held over Zoom. But especially for children who are immunocompromised or actively battling illness or disease, Downer said their high-risk statuses made the pivot all the more essential.
“At the start of the pandemic, we really had to pivot and find ways to still connect with all these children that we work with and bring music to them, especially when they were feeling more isolated than ever,” Downer said. “So we shifted all of our programming to provide it virtually….and this way, we are able to provide virtual bedside music visits as well as providing things like concerts, musical games and activities, instrument lessons and one-on-one sessions.”
Currently, Downer said JoyRx is working to bring back live programming to its participating hospitals and clinics, but those timelines are dependent on current COVID community levels.
For kids hospitalized or facing serious health conditions, Downer said battling health complications can be a lonely experience. She said her hope is this program can continue to remind children they’re not alone, as well as bring some lightness and levity to kids’ treatments.
“I’ve seen spontaneous dance parties break out in a room. I’ve seen everyone start to sing along, from the child to their parents, and even the nurse or the doctor joining the room singing,” she said. “And these moments, they’re just so special, and just really beautiful.”