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Nonprofit empowers kids through songwriting

Words by Smiley Team

Music can be therapeutic, whether it be in your own car riding the highway, or after a bad breakup. There’s music for almost every situation. 

Not everyone has the skill, know-how, or means to produce a song to their liking, but a non-profit named Hear Your Song wants to provide that opportunity to sick children. 

“We could really reach by helping kids living with serious illnesses in children's hospitals and other settings, to really tell their stories through songwriting, to help kids write their own songs about anything they wanted,” Hear Your Song Executive Director and co-founder, Dan Rubins, tells Smiley News, "and then to take them back to campus and bring them to life with musical collaborators, exactly as the kids imagine them sounding.”

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The organization began on the Yale campus when Dan and co-founder Rebecca Brudner were undergrads together. Dan, a composer, and Rebecca, a singer and actor, wanted to bring the elements of music on campus together while also finding a way to give back. 

They started off at Yale, which evolved into its own on-campus organization, and when the pair graduated in 2016, they left the organization to its own devices. Then. as everything else did, things changed in 2020.

“The first weeks of the shutdown in March 2020, we started reaching out to more musicians, volunteers, getting in touch with hospital programs, camp programs, serving kids,” says Dan. “By the end of summer 2020, I gave up my teaching job and decided to do here some full time.

"We've worked with over 250 kids since then, and over a dozen partnerships with children's hospitals and nonprofits, and camp programs around the country and beyond.”

'As long as the kids need'

The process is streamlined and takes about as long as the kids need. 

“We describe our process as kid-driven, which means we don't really have any expectations for what the process will look like until we've met the kid and hear what they want to create. There are some kids who will do a 60-minute session and say, 'That's all I want to contribute', and then we can get that song back to them,” says Dan.

“There are other kids who we go sort of back and forth for months making revisions and edits.”

Some kids are even forming their own works like two girls who became best friends through the program that are now producing their own songs. Hear Your Song is even venturing into musicals, since a boy wanted to write a musical symbolizing his immune deficiency.

“The symbol for rare disease in the US is a zebra, so he wanted to write a musical about zebra who comes to New York City to find his adoptive father and ended up cast in “The Lion King” on Broadway as an understudy antelope,” Dan says. “We were able to get six original cast members of Lion King on Broadway to perform in a video alongside him.”

Hear Your Song will also be hosting a concert Thursday, May 12, at Feinstein’s 54 Below. The concert will feature songs made by the kids performed by Broadway actors like Tony Nominee Liz Callaway. The concert will be available through Livestream or in person.

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Find out more about the concert, as you can buy tickets or follow the link directly from the Hear Your Song website. At that link you can also donate to the organization. 

DONATE: You can support Hear Your Song to help them further their mission of empowering children and teens through music.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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