Soundbreaking: Music and Health Institute Takes Shape

On June 29, with support from the Barr Foundation, the Berklee Music and Health Institute held its inaugural event, “Crossroads of Music and Medicine,” in the David Friend Recital Hall. More than 100 participants from the academic, medical, healthcare, biotech, pharmaceutical, music, and civic sectors gathered for a full day of exploration of the intersections of music and medicine, with a focus on pain, trauma, and addiction. The response and turnout for this first exchange event far exceeded expectations, indicating tremendous cross-sector interest in this breakthrough area of music and health.

Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of Health and Human Services Cabinet, offered inspiring opening remarks that were followed by presentations from some of the top researchers and practitioners in the field. Presenters included Dr. David Silbersweig, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and codirector for the Institute for the Neurosciences, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Dr. Robert Sheridan, burn service medical director at Shriners Hospital for Children—Boston; Dr. Douglas Brandoff, pianist and director of opioid safety at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and Susan Bakouros, a music therapist who works in the neonatal intensive care unit at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

The purpose of the Berklee Music and Health Exchange series is to spotlight key issues, convene experts and leaders, and provide a forum for sharing ideas. The next exchange, “Crossroads of Music and Technology,” will take place on October 25, in the David Friend Recital Hall and Cafe 939. It will explore the impact of the convergence of music and technology on individual and community health outcomes with presentations that focus on accessibility, digital therapeutics/big data, and social impact.

The Berklee Music and Health Institute also welcomes MilliporeSigma as a new corporate partner supporting the institute’s upcoming Music and Health Hackathon. Planned for spring 2019, the event will engage Boston’s innovation community, bringing together computer programmers, interface designers, music therapists, data scientists, and subject-matter experts to collaborate on a health-related challenge. The hackathon will build on Berklee’s past collaborations with MIT and other partners, and will leverage the Music Therapy Department’s prior experience hosting technology hacks.

“Music and life science are inextricably linked,” Renee Connolly, MilliporeSigma Global Head of Communications and Corporate Responsibility, says. “We are excited about the promise this new initiative holds. We believe impactful new answers can be found when we foster collaboration and curiosity among the world-class innovators who live and work in the vibrant Boston community.”

“Having MilliporeSigma, a world-leading life science company in the Boston area, join the Barr Foundation as a lead partner in the Music and Health Institute has elevated the possibilities of what we can accomplish,” says Joy Allen, Berklee’s Music Therapy chair. “We are excited to work together with both of them and with our hackathon participants to achieve real impact on the health of individuals and communities.” With input from Berklee faculty, students, MilliporeSigma, and other external partners, a specific hackathon brief will be developed. Details will be released later this fall.

The Berklee Music and Health Institute is being incubated within the Professional Education Division under the leadership of division dean Darla Hanley and Joy Allen. For information about upcoming Music and Health Institute events, visit