Allegheny Health Network and Carnegie Mellon University Bring Internationally Renowned “Lullaby Project” to Pittsburgh

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Project empowers student musicians to compose personalized lullabies with expecting and new parents for their babies

Musicians from Carnegie Mellon University work with mother and AHN patient, Amy Walsh, on a lullaby for her sons

“Songwriting is a vehicle for connection, and my hope this semester is to guide our teaching artists to support these new or expecting parents in expressing their love, hope, and blessings for their children..." - Monique Mead, Carnegie Mellon University

Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) School of Music are coming together to bring the internationally-renowned “Lullaby Project,” a program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute (WMI), to Pittsburgh. The project, which is integrated into a designated CMU course, pairs student musicians with pregnant AHN patients and new parents to write and compose personalized lullabies for their babies in an effort to enhance maternal health, aid childhood development and strengthen the bond between parent and child. This is one of the first partnerships in the country between a health system and academic university to launch the Lullaby Project, and it’s the second only Lullaby Project in the state.

CMU collaborated with Tracey Vogel, MD, anesthesiologist and Director of the Perinatal Trauma-informed Care (TIC) Clin ic at AHN’s West Penn hospital to select obstetric patients to participate in the pilot phase of the project as well as educate enrolled CMU students on this highly specialized and innovative approach to care.

“Since its inception, the Lullaby Project has worked with new parents in challenging circumstances to foster an increased maternal bond. As a group of musicians, we wanted to do this project justice and by selecting Allegheny Health Network as a partner in our efforts, we’ll do just that,” said Monique Mead, associate teaching professor and Director of Music Entrepreneurship at CMU. “Songwriting is a vehicle for connection, and my hope this semester is to guide our teaching artists to support these new or expecting parents in expressing their love, hope, and blessings for their children in an original, personalized way."

The AHN Perinatal Trauma-Informed Care clinic, launched last year, is one of the country’s first such programs geared specifically toward obstetric patients. Dr. Vogel works closely with this patient population to develop optimal birthing plans that address and help prevent postpartum psychological and/or physical complications from occurring or resurfacing.

“The AHN trauma-informed care clinic serves patients who have diverse experiences with trauma from pre-existing events like domestic violence or sexual abuse to post-birth trauma, emergency cesarean delivery or major loss of blood with a previous delivery,” explained Dr. Vogel. “As these women prepare for another birth, it’s critical that their traumatic history is considered when their care plans are designed. It’s also important that we implement care strategies and provide resources that better support women in their fourth trimester, as research has shown a close correlation between pre-existing trauma and bonding impairment between mother and child.”

Dr. Vogel hand-selected six patients to participate in the Lullaby Project and 12 students registered for the music entrepreneurship course through CMU. Together, the pairs are working throughout the semester to create personalized expressions of unconditional love through the power of music.

According to r esearch commissioned by the Lullaby Project, early results of the program have demonstrated that creating and singing lullabies is mutually beneficial for parents and their children. By taking part in the workshops, parents reported feeling a sense of improved well-being and heightened creativity as well as a restored outlook that the future is bright for the entire family. From a clinical perspective, introduction to music early and often has shown to positively impact brain and social development in infants.

The CMU and AHN collaboration officially kicked off in early October with the first half of the semester dedicated to learning about trauma-informed care, the history of lullabies and their application across the globe as well as cultural competencies like intercultural communication and social justice. The second half is focused on the process of prompting and later writing a personalized lullaby, songwriting and recording sessions, all of which are being held at the Awareness & Wellness Center (AWC) in Shadyside, Pa, a space also dedicated to healing from trauma.

“In their first session, participants, working with our teaching artists, draw on personal journals or letters they have written to their babies, and their own musical preferences to write lyrics and compose an original lullaby for their children,” explained Mead. “In a second session, parents and musicians work on instrumentation and record their lullabies. The entire program culminates in a song circle celebration where everyone’s lullabies are shared. The process is deeply personal, and our hope is that it is a healing experience and an opportunity for parents to express their feelings though music and foster a deeper connection with their infants.”

Valeria J. Martinez, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at CMU’s College of Fine Arts, co-taught the course with Mead.

“We were able to supplement what the Lullaby Project required with additional training, teaching and facilitation on culturally responsive pedagogy, cultural competencies, critical race theory, and thinking and understanding forms of oppression. This further allowed us to use music as a conduit to healing,” said Martinez. “This course proves that incorporating these teachings into a curriculum can create and foster a better human experience and interaction. Our class helps people be better people. I’m grateful for this project and the opportunity it provides people around the world. I’m especially thankful to witness the extraordinary impact that our take on this project, creating this class, has had on our community.”

In New York City, the Lullaby Project reaches parents and caregivers in hospitals, homeless shelters, schools, and correctional facilities. The first Lullaby Project took place at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York in December 2011, and since then more than 3,000 families have written original songs for their children, many of which are available for listening and sharing at carnegiehall.org/lullaby.

The AWC studio will host the Pittsburgh Lullaby Project’s celebratory concert on Sunday, November 20 at 2 p.m. For more information on the local Lullaby Project, please visit lullabypgh.com.

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About Carnegie Mellon University:
Carnegie Mellon University, cmu.edu, is a private, internationally ranked research university with acclaimed programs spanning the sciences, engineering, technology, business, public policy, humanities and the arts. Our diverse community of scholars, researchers, creators and innovators is driven to make real-world impacts that benefit people across the globe. With a bold, interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial approach, we do the work that matters.

About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, multiple employed physician organizations, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more. AHN employs approximately 22,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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