About Kids Rock Cancer

Maryville University brings the joy and healing power of music to kids at St. Louis pediatric cancer centers.

Kids Rock Cancer is an innovative program that helps children successfully cope with the unique emotional challenges that accompany a cancer diagnosis. Through the proven healing power of music therapy, Kids Rock Cancer helps children combat feelings of anxiety, depression, uncertainty and helplessness. The program provides:

  • A vehicle for self-expression
  • A sense of self-esteem and accomplishment
  • A distraction from the physical and emotional pain
  • A sense of joy and optimism

KRC History

Kids Rock Cancer was inspired by Purple Songs Can Fly, a successful program created and overseen by singer-songwriter Anita Kruse at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

Maryville modeled Kids Rock Cancer using an additional component: Music Therapy. With the only fully accredited Music Therapy program in the St. Louis area, Maryville was in a unique position to bring children at area cancer treatment centers together with a certified music therapist, who could help them use music and songwriting as a vehicle for expressing their emotions.

Kids Rock Cancer launched in November 2009 at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center when a 12-year-old boy named Tyler recorded his first song, “Faith Through My Weakness.” Tyler’s message of strength has since been echoed by more than 1,000 courageous children, each using music as a vehicle to express their thoughts and feelings.

How Do Kids “Rock” Cancer?

In one or two sessions, typically lasting an hour or two , a board-certified music therapist helps the child express a set of thoughts and ideas that can be written down and turned into lyrics for a song. The child and therapist work together to compose a tune for the lyrics. The child then sings into a microphone and “stars” in the song they have written, with background instrumentation provided by guitar, keyboard and computer software. When they have finished, the child receives a CD recording as a legacy piece that becomes uniquely his or her own.

Where Do Kids Rock Cancer?

Kids Rock Cancer helps children find their inner musician at the following locations: SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital; St. Louis Children’s Hospital; Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis, Mercy Hospital St. Louis, Ronald McDonald House (on the campus of Mercy Hospital) and S. Lee Kling Center for Proton Therapy at Siteman Cancer Center. Special group sessions have also taken place at Camp Rainbow (for children with cancer), Camp Crescent (for children with sickle cell disease) and other locations.

Did You Know?

The program has expanded to help kids whose family members (mom, dad or sibling) are battling cancer and blood disorders, like sickle cell disease. Kids (and many adults!) may have trouble processing the impact of life-changing events like cancer diagnosis and treatment. Creating a story through music helps not only the kids but the entire family respect one another’s feelings and concerns, as well as rejoice in each other’s insights.