Student Success: ‘Healing Voices Houston’ Brings Therapeutic Music to Community
By Ashley Kilday, Contributing Writer
Originally from Chicago, the effervescent Stephanie Wolff earned her first bachelor’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Armed with a desire to attend med school, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s in Biology in Houston—home to the largest medical center in the country. “UHD was close to where I lived, accepted the most transfer credits, and was the most cost-effective. I’m pretty much on track to get my degree this summer,” she said. “I will hopefully be able to apply to medical school in 2024.”
Wolff shared that it was an errant email that alerted her to the Community Engagement Grant opportunity. “It’s happened a couple of times where I’ve discovered emails that led to exciting doors being opened to me. I discovered the grant email about 24-48 hours before the deadline.”
“I’ve had the idea for ‘Healing Voices Houston’ since I came to Houston seven years ago,” she said. “It’s based on a program, ‘Musical Medics,’ I was involved with while at Edinburgh. The group offered a full choir and orchestra and gave two concerts a year, the proceeds of which were donated to different medical charities. I served primarily as a piano accompanist, though I also handled organization and logistics at different points. The intersection of healing and music, of medicine and the arts, is a place I’m very passionate about.”
Wolff quickly emailed Dr. Azar Rejaie (shown right), Associate Professor of Art History, Chair of the Department of Arts & Communication, and BAFA Degree Coordinator, to ask if she would serve as a faculty sponsor.
“The powers that be let me know I had been approved for a grant in December, and with Dr. Rejaie’s help, I sent out a call for singers,” Wolf recalled. “The biggest part of the $300 grant funded a portable electric keyboard. My goal of the group is to exist as a non-audition choir, able to go into long- and short-term medical communities, like hospices or respite homes, to sing.”
COVID restrictions affected these communities severely, as visitors and outside groups bringing music and art were denied access for the health and safety of the patients. Wolff’s goal is to restore these interactions, which are important for the mental and physical well-being of those with medical needs.
“People are passionate about this,” Wolff said. “I hope that the choir feels sort of ‘built’ by the audience as we tailor our songs to their interests. In my call for singers, I received a wonderfully diverse response, especially in terms of musical cultural backgrounds, and I hope this is something we can bring to the communities we sing for. Singing is a place of vulnerability, but you bond over the vulnerability.”