Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

WXPN-FM (University of Pennsylvania)

Name of Innovative Program: 
WXPN Musicians On Call
Sponsoring Organization
WXPN-FM (University of Pennsylvania)
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Quyen Shanahan
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
WXPN Musicians On Call has brought the healing power of music to thousands of patients for nearly 10 years, as the Philadelphia area site of the national Musicians On Call program. Through weekly bedside performances and the unique Project Playback songwriting collaborative, WXPN Musicians On Call enables those who are ill to transcend their physical pain or emotional distress. The program also provides “CD Pharmacies,” specially selected collections of music, for patients to borrow at dozens of facilities in XPN’s listening area.  The hospitals themselves lack the resources and expertise to provide high quality entertainment that doubles as hands-on patient care, and thus Musicians On Call fills a great need.  Patients, family members, hospital staff and program volunteers appreciate the emotional impact of this intimate arts access experience. Artists say the experience connects them to the transformational power of music and renews their sense of purpose.
Creativity and Innovation: 
It has been demonstrated that live music can lower blood pressure and heart rates, lessen muscle tension, decrease stress hormones, and relieve nausea. The medical field has long recognized that music has positive effects for those recovering from both emotional and physical traumas.  Musicians On Call creatively fills a need to provide access to the healing power of music for patients who cannot leave their hospital rooms.  By bringing the performances to the patients, treating them with dignity and kindness, the program ensures that those who are in the greatest need of emotional uplift can receive it.  The Project Playback program, utilizing the songwriting process to indirectly address trauma through musical expression, spawns creativity from the participants.
WXPN Musicians On Call has led the way in delivering arts-based, hands-on patient support services.  While children's hospitals frequently receive the opportunity to welcome entertainers and others presenting cultural activities, hospitals in the region have greatly appreciated the availability of programming for adult patients. "On the ground," the program is organized and delivered by volunteer leaders -- the musicians, who receive special training on working with critically ill patients; and the volunteer guides, who receive both the Musicians On Call training and the hospital's own volunteer training. The impact of the bedside performances is noted by the hospital staff; they openly discuss ways to support patients beyond providing medical services.
There is a waiting list for the Musicians On Call program in the Philadelphia area.  WXPN is seeking to expand the program to its other broadcast markets, including Delaware and Central Pennsylvania, where potential partners have been identified. The program's most significant costs are for volunteer training, and professional services to coordinate program scheduling. WXPN has found the program to be highly popular for grant funding and corporate sponsorship, and hosts an annual benefit concert (artists donate their time) which enables listeners to support the program by purchasing tickets and making small donations. Many of the hospitals themselves contribute sponsorships for the annual benefit. WXPN is able to use its on-air, online and social media platforms to promote the program and generate both volunteer participation and donations. Recently, singer-songwriter Amos Lee, a Musicians On Call volunteer, donated a portion of ticket sales from his national tour to the program.
WXPN has grown the bedside performance program from one site to 7 evenings at 6 sites -- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (2 evenings per week), Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Health System in Camden, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.  We seek support to add another hospital each year, while maintaining our existing programs.  Musicians On Call was founded in New York and has been replicated in Nashville, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Lexington, Kentucky.  Philadelphia is the only city in which a radio station runs the program. 
The intangible service provided to ill patients is difficult to concretely measure. However, we feel there are several indicators of success including the number of beside visits, number of volunteer hours donated, and anecdotal feedback from patients, family members, guides, musicians, and hospital staff - these measures are all tracked annually.   The retention rate among our artists and volunteers is also a strong indicator of the program's powerful impact. Musicians value the program as a counterpoint to promotional activities – they can connect with the patients and see how music really does make a difference.  Children benefiting from the program appreciate the “normalcy” of a visit from an entertainer; elderly patients experience decreased agitation; and adults and family members facing the emotional trials of hospitalization are touched in innumerable ways.  These combined healing effects can have a positive impact on the wider community.