‘Heart of a Child’ benefit concert to be held April 22

Jeff Miller and his wife Anita founded the Music with Heart program after they lost their daughter Ariana to congenital heart disease in 2008 at the age of 13.

Ariana Miller was born with severe congenital heart disease requiring six open-heart surgeries. While homebound and awaiting a heart transplant, one of the few bright spots in her week was a visit from her music therapist. According to her father, Dr. Jeffrey Miller, “Ariana had days when she didn’t want to get out of bed, but if she had a music therapy appointment, she would muster the strength to get up and come downstairs. Within a few minutes she was a totally different child, smiling and singing with her therapist. Music therapy allowed her to forget about her disease even if it was for only an hour. It got her through some of her toughest days.”

Sadly, Ariana passed away at age 13, but her love of music lives on through Resounding Joy’s Ariana Miller Music with Heart program, providing no-cost music therapy to local children facing significant health issues. Rachel Gant, a board-certified music therapist, is the director of the Music with Heart program at Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego (RCHSD). Gant develops and carries out daily, individualized music therapy plans for patients in the cardiac and oncology units in coordination with the child-life specialist.

Gant says, “There is something special about how music connects with children when they are in a difficult, stressful situation. It makes a huge difference.”

According to Dr. John Lamberti, chief of the Cardiovascular Surgery Division and the director of the Eugene and Joyce Klein Heart Institute, “The music therapy program has become an integral part of our treatment program at RCHSD.”

Resounding Joy also provides in-home music therapy for children and teens with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses or injuries in collaboration with RCHSD’s HomeCare palliative program.

“Playing an instrument can help strengthen a weak side of the body or grip, singing can help improve vocalization, listening to music can help with relaxation or sleep,” explains Lindsay Zehren, a board-certified music therapist, “Our sessions bring some normalcy.” She develops a music therapy plan with the family and the care team to help patients meet their goals. Some with terminal illnesses even work on legacy projects to write and record songs with their families.

Now in its 6th year, the annual Heart of a Child benefit concert funds these programs and ensures San Diego children can continue to receive no-cost music therapy when they are hospitalized or home-bound by sickness and disability. Hosted by television star Marc Summers and featuring phenomenal performances by 20 young musical acts, Heart of a Child has become the premier showcase of young local talent, generously giving their time to support other kids battling illness in the community.

Heart of a Child benefit concert will be held Saturday, April 22. Food trucks at 5:45 p.m., reception and silent auction at 6 p.m., concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

The event will be held at Irwin M. Jacobs Hall at Qualcomm, 5775 Morehouse Drive, San Diego, 92121.