Although cultures as early as the ancient Egyptians used music as a form of medicinal healing, Western medicine tends to overlook music therapy as a legitimate remedial technique. However, in recent years, more and more hospitals are embracing the therapy due to its effectiveness in helping the sick and disabled. For many, music is intrinsically soothing and uplifting. It can release endorphins, reduce stress, inspire ideas, and motivate change.
Geri Fessler knows firsthand how much music can help during sickness and recovery. When her daughter, Heather, was diagnosed with a fatal illness at a young age, it was music that helped her the most through the difficult times. “Everyone around the world uses music and chanting for healing,” Geri explains. “Music is medicine to the soul. It moves the human spirit more than you can possibly imagine.” After Heather passed away, Geri used her faith in the power of music to start the Heather on Earth Music Foundation, the world’s first and only non-profit organization dedicated to funding music therapy in children’s hospitals.
Since its inception, the Heather on Earth Music Foundation has touched the lives of thousands of children throughout hospitals in the New York City area and Israel. With funding from the organization, hospitals are able to employ full and part-time music therapists who provide a wide range of music modalities to all pediatric patients and their families who struggle with hospitalization and illness. Many of these children suffer from childhood diseases like leukemia, tumors, and other devastating illnesses. Music helps distract patients and their loved ones during some extremely painful moments. Geri explains, “Music lifts their spirits. It soothes them. It just brings immediate joy. Music is the one universal language we all understand. Delivering it to precious children as they heal is just extraordinary.”
The Heather on Earth Music Foundation is run entirely by volunteers, with all donations going directly toward the cause. Their goal is to be able to continue to expand their existing programs at five major children’s hospitals here and abroad. Members of the foundation consider every contribution that comes their way a blessing.
To celebrate its endeavors, on August 31, Heather on Earth will host Perfect Harmony, a night of music, mingling, dinner, and dancing. Geri reveals, “It is an event that will celebrate the human spirit, music, and family. People will leave looking at music in a different way.” The event will be produced by Jeffree Apisson of Red Haute Events and catered by Thomas Preti Events to Savor. It will take place at the Oheka Castle in Long Island, NY, and 100 percent of its proceeds will go toward Heather on Earth.
Throughout the evening, Purple Hearts of Courage will be awarded to two remarkable patients, Heather McNamara, whom Geri calls a “living miracle,” and Rosina Scaccia, who attributes music as a huge part of her healing process at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Geri notes that it is most rewarding and inspiring for her to personally see how children like Heather and Rosina have responded to the music therapy.
The event will also honor Sandy and Cori Goldfarb and Family, whose devotion to the organization and other external philanthropic work has been significant over the years, making a true difference in the lives of others.
In addition, Dr. Joanne Loewy will receive the “Divine Music Award”. As the director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel, Dr. Loewy has been a pioneer for music therapy, traveling the world to speak about it, and helping to fund studies on its effects on the healing process of infants from twelve Neo-Natal Intensive Care Units in the Northeast. Dr. Loewy also held a Heather on Earth Music Summit at which 35 music therapists from around the world came together to speak about music and healing.
Perfect harmony will also introduce the Heather on Earth Music Foundation’s iPod-pal program, from which a simple $250 donation will provide an iPod for a sick child. Geri recalls, “I noticed that a recurring item on the top of children’s wish lists was an iPod. We want to bring as much music as possible to the kids, and recorded music brings them continuous music throughout the whole day, like when they are waiting for chemotherapy or surgery. They all absorb it, love it, and cherish it.” Heather on Earth will also recognize Keano Munoz, the “Prince of the iPod” who was known for performing on his hospital floor every afternoon singing along to his iPod.
Along with monetary donations, guests can also purchase pages in the Book of Life, which is a special keepsake journal that they will be able to take home from the event. The souvenir will include artwork, photographs, and sentimental or inspirational messages from both individual and corporate sponsors of the charity. Dozens of generous sponsors are already on board, including Kenny and Brenda Carmel, Donny Deutsch, Atlantic Automotive Group, Michael Brown, Jay and Annie Gilbert, and Jay Goldman.
“The memory of Heather lives on through the power of music,” reflects Geri, “Heather on Earth is a testimony to her life. It was brief, but powerful. It’s extraordinary. It’s miraculous. It’s Heather on Earth.”
Heather on Earth Music Foundation
40 E. Mall Drive