Hospitalized kids get personalized concerts through Seattle's Melodic Caring Project

Feb 6, 2012

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On Friday, Dec. 2 at Seattle Children’s Hospital, 11-year-old Braydon Hutchison was crying. It wasn’t because of his leukemia, which kept him quarantined, or the nausea and vomiting that had made him sick all day. A musician he’d never met was playing a concert across town in his honor, calling out his name to the crowd. Braydon could see the live stream on his laptop from his hospital bed, and it finally moved him to tears.

It was the best thing that ever happened to him in the hospital, Braydon would later say. “It made me feel really good.”

The musician was local artist Levi Ware. The concert was the work of the Melodic Caring Project, a nonprofit startup Ware and his wife, Stephanie, founded last year with the mission of using music and technology to help kids heal.

“I’ve always felt music was for more than entertaining,” said Ware, 35. “Now, finally, with this coming together, it’s like, ‘Wow — this is really our purpose.’”

‘He wants to make the crazy go away’

The idea for Melodic Caring Project grew out of an August 2010 benefit concert Ware and other artists performed in Mount Vernon for Kaydee Curbow, a then 11-year-old Burlington girl who was battling leukemia. Treatment for the disease can leave the immune system susceptible to infection. So Kaydee, a student of a Bayview Elementary teacher who is one of Ware’s friends, could not leave the hospital.

“We thought, ‘It’s great to do this in Mt. Vernon, but we want her to know people care, so how can we make her a part of it?’” Ware said.

Ware set up a camera at the venue and told Kaydee’s family how to access the concert via UStream. She and her mother, Patti, watched from her hospital room as people she’d never met came together in her honor.

“We called her afterward, and she was so happy,” Ware said. “That’s how Melodic Care Project was born.”

The Wares put on three more shows for Kaydee, including an emotional homecoming concert, that helped her family raise more than $5,000 for medical expenses.

At the end of the year, Levi and Stephanie made a big decision. Levi quit his day job in construction, and Stephanie quit hers in accounting, so the couple could devote themselves full time to cultivating an idea they said already feels bigger than they are. They’re starting small, but with partnerships with the Seattle Living Room Shows and the Fremont Abbey Arts Center about to kick off, they’re looking forward to helping more and bigger acts break hospitalized kids’ isolation and give them a meaningful experience.

“The staff, the nurses would come in and watch it and say, ‘How cool that they’re doing this for you,’” Patti Curbow, Kaydee’s mom, said about her daughter’s streamed concerts. “I hope [Levi Ware] does really well with this, just because of how it’s made us feel. You can tell his heart is totally into it. He wants to help people. He wants to make the crazy go away for a while.”

Getting support

The Wares want to keep their service free to patients, and free to the hospital. So to make the project sustainable, they know, they have some work to do. Most costs so far they’ve paid out of pocket, and the Dec. 2 concert — the project’s first after the Wares’ shows for Kaydee — relied on a volunteer cameraman who used his own equipment.

Their first step is to launch an online community fundraising campaign on Kickstarter or PledgeMusic in the coming weeks. Also on the to-do list: apply for grants, scout for corporate sponsorships and host fundraisers for the nonprofit. The first fundraiser, a combination benefit that will double as a live streamed show to hospitalized kids, is scheduled for March 29.

“It’s not about the musicians. It’s about the kids,” Levi Ware said. “What’s the point of all this wonderful technology if you don’t do something good with it?”

The Melodic Caring Project will stream its next show March 10 with tourist artists at the Seattle Living Room Shows. Its next show, March 29 at the Fremont Arts Abbey, will double as a project fundraiser. Both shows will stream to patients at Seattle Children’s and a new partner, PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center.

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