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Recording Studio in Hospital About More Than Music

Recording Studio in Hospital About More Than Music

alen Huckabay, right, contemplates the song she is writing as her mother Karen, left, waits outside the studio door at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Monica Rhor / AP

January 01, 2009

HOUSTON — Just down the hall from the chemo infusion rooms at Texas Children’s Hospital, Jalen Huckabay was about to slip into another world, away from the wearying regimen of pokes, prods and pinches she’d endured since being diagnosed with lymphoma in November.

For the next few hours, the curly-haired, cherub-faced 16-year-old would become a songwriter.

Purple Songs Can Fly, a one-of-a-kind program at one of the country’s largest pediatric cancer care facilities, gives patients a chance to record their own songs in a fully equipped recording studio at the hospital.

More than 116 songs have been recorded since Purple Songs began in March 2006 as part of the cancer center’s Arts in Medicine program. Some of the recordings have been featured on audio tracks aboard Continental Airlines flights, and flown into space aboard the space shuttle.

Yet Jalen hesitated and hawed when her oncologist asked if she wanted to write and record a song. She wasn’t sure what to expect. She is normally reserved, prone to one-word answers and prefers to stick close to her mother. She doesn’t like singing in front of other people.

But she can talk for hours about Jasmine, the pint-size Yorkshire terrier she got as a Christmas present last year. The puppy she calls MYD. My Yippin’ Dog.

Purple Songs founder Anita Kruse immediately knew that Jalen’s words contained the kernels of a song, and that behind the girl’s shy exterior, a creative spirit lurked.

“There’s a point where the kids realize they are not thinking about anything else. It’s just about being in that creative place,” said Kruse, a Houston-based singer-songwriter who raised $10,000 to start Purple Songs, which is funded through donations. “Seeing someone going through something really difficult let that go, even if it’s just for the moment, it’s beautiful.”

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