$1.5M investment brings state-of-the-art music therapy studio to Mott Children’s Hospital

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Barton family is so musical, you might find sheet music in their genetic code.

Anne-Marie and Kent Barton are parents to sons Luke, Chaz and Cole, all who play guitar and sing. When it came to their daughter Sophie, she really gave music her all and had professional aspirations, Anne-Marie said.

Sophie died unexpectedly from an irregular heartbeat at age 17 while on a family trip. As the family picked up the pieces from the loss, they discovered Sophie also wanted to devote her life to the service of children at hospitals.

Flash forward to today, and the latest in a series of state-of-the-art music therapy studios named after Sophie Barton has opened its doors at CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Michigan Medicine opened the latest Sophie’s Place studio during a Wednesday, Aug. 3 ribbon cutting, a culmination of a $1.5 million investment into music therapy for child patients.

The space, which spans approximately 1,250 square feet, triples the music therapy services Michigan Medicine can offer child patients, health system officials said. The investment was made possible through donations from former NFL quarterback Steve Young and his wife Barbara’s Forever Young Foundation, as well as the Mott Golf Classic and other donors.

The first Sophie’s Place came in 2013 at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, followed by other studios at California and Arizona children’s hospitals. The studio in Ann Arbor is the first one outside of the western US, Young said Wednesday.

“It took a vision and some faith in a small group of people,” he said, gesturing to the Barton family. “We’ve done this a few times in the west and to bring it east and across the continental divide, it’s very exciting.”

Anne-Marie and Kent Barton, the parents of Sophie Barton, the inspiration behind the Sophie’s Place initiative.Sam Dodge | MLive.com

The Bartons were blown away by the studio space on Wednesday, particularly when hospital officials gifted them a framed photograph of a sound wave depicting Sophie’s voice while singing. While the day was personally emotional for them, it also furthered the cause of music therapy having “a prescription for healing,” Anne-Marie said.

“Music really kind of transforms the soul,” she said. “It opens up some parts of the mind as well, to avail progress if you’ve had brain damage. Music can not only make you feel good, it can improve your health.”

The Sophie’s Place studio will advance Michigan Medicine’s goals of providing emotional, psychological and holistic health care, said Dr. David Miller, president of the University of Michigan Health System.

“This endeavor is going to be such a catalyst to advancing the comprehensive and holistic care that we provide here at children’s and women’s hospital,” he said Wednesday.

The music therapy services in the studio include opportunities for patients to record and share music with other patients and families, as well as experience in recording studios, the release states. There will be group music therapy sessions, specialized programming to promote coping methods and programming to support families in support and loss.

The studio also allows for in-person and virtual performances, feeding footage into patient rooms if they are unable to move. There will be programs such as “Story Time” to encourage academic engagement with child patients and “Song of the Day” segments that connect music therapists to child patients.

“Music is a powerful way to offer children and teens comfort and connection and help them cope through their hospitalization and treatment,” said Luanne Thomas Ewald, chief operating officer at Mott, as well as Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

The studio at Mott will be managed by music therapist Meredith Irvine, who called the space an opportunity for more connection between patients at the hospital.

“Music is an inherent part of who we are as individuals and how we connect with one another,” she said. “Sophie’s Place will allow us to provide individualized music therapy services that meet the needs of each patient throughout their journey and healing process. “

The studio in Ann Arbor would have brought Sophie “extreme joy,” her mother said.

“Sophie used to say her legs would tickle and that’s how she responded to things that brought extreme joy,” Anne-Marie said. “It was just everything Sophie would want. It really reflects Sophie.”

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