Album Share – Christmas at C.P.H. – The Children of the Inpatient Music Therapy Program, University of Michigan’s Children’s Psychiatric Hospital
For the past two years around Christmas, I’ve shared this wonderful album performed by the children in the Inpatient Music Therapy Program at the University of Michigan’s Children’s Psychiatric Hospital. The response has always been fantastic. Tracks from the album have found their way onto the playlists on WFMU in New York, have been used as background music in between shows at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, Illinois, and, judging from the many emails I’ve received and from my server logs, has been enjoyed by hundreds of people all over the world.
I’ve loved this album from the first time I heard it, but I have gained a new respect for it after having the pleasure of tracking down and conversing with Charles Whiting and Ken Michalik, two of the music therapists responsible for the concert. Messrs. Whiting and Michalik graciously shared their memories of the program, the concert, and the children involved.
Charles Whiting first became involved with CPH in 1973 while doing his music therapy internship under the direction of Jo Pickett. Ms. Pickett initiated the music therapy program in 1971. At the time, CPH was a free standing building that housed around 54 children ranging in age from 5-13 who stayed there 24 hours a day for a period of one to three years. Children entered the program for treatment of a wide variety developmental and behavioral disorders and were considered a danger to themselves and others.
Originally hired as an occupational therapist, Mr. Whiting began to introduce instrumental music as an extra activity to interested patients. He began with obtaining three rented instruments (two cornets and a trombone) and gave three children who had had no previous music experience lessons. They learned by rote and repetition and eventually worked up enough music to give an informal concert. The response was overwhelmingly positive. After hearing the small group perform, all of the children in the program wanted to be involved. The music program expanded to the point where every child received an hour of music instruction everyday as part of their regular activities. As the program grew, Mr. Whiting asked Ken Michalik, who was working as a percussion instructor in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to tutor a few of the students. Mr. Michalik did and found he loved doing it. He gradually worked his way into a full time position at CPH and earned a Music Therapy membership in the American Association for Music Therapy (now the American Music Therapy Association). Diane Katchadurian also joined the staff shortly after completing her music therapy internship.
The Christmas concert was only one part of a number of activities under the direction of Messrs. Whiting and Michalik. The children in the program gave concerts as frequently as the directors could get them ready. Learning everything by rote and imitation, these children performed as a jazz/rock ensemble, a string group, recorded a radio public service announcement for the Very Special Arts Festival Special (complete with a voice over by Bo Schembechler), and even learned and performed Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’, with narration, in its entirety. All this from children who, according to Mr. Whiting, normally had difficulty sitting still for more than five seconds at a stretch.
The Christmas concert was held in the Lydia Mendelson Theater on the campus of the University of Michigan each year. It was always very well attended and regularly brought the house down. Albums were pressed and given to the children as mementos, as well as sold to raise money for the music therapy program. The children were responsible for performing all the music, except the piano accompaniment for the instrumental solos.
Mr. Whiting still hears from the saxophone soloist, who credits the program with saving his life, every year around Christmas.
Ken Michalik is currently working as a music teacher in the Ann Arbor, Michigan School District where he continues to work with at-risk children. Charles Whiting is now the Director of Operations for the Medical Management Center at the University of Michigan Health System. Both he and Mr. Micharik are rightfully proud of the work and the children in the program and were astonished to hear of the reach their recording from so many years ago has had. All I can offer is a sincere thank you to them, and to the children who put their all into the performances. You’ve brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people with your efforts.
Have a great holiday everyone, have fun listening, and as always, Enjoy!
Download all mp3s and cover art in one 42 MB zip file.