Music Therapy at Nemours

Laura Cerulli, Music Therapist at Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, plays guitar with Mateo Ahumada, 2019 Help Our Kids Radiothon ambassador

Mateo can pick up a guitar and easily play a few notes of some of his favorites: Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kansas, just to name a few.

That guitar, and the music therapy program he went through at A. I. duPont Hospital for Children, got him through some tough times as he battled leukemia.

"I didn't know a lot starting. I knew some very basic chords," Mateo said. "Laura taught me a lot more. She taught me chord progression, picking, a lot of different stuff that really helped me, set me on the path to learn more."

Laura is Laura Cerulli, the music therapist at Nemours. If you've ever coped with a difficult time by doing something creative, it's the same for a young patient.

"What's great about art and music therapy is sometimes you can end up with a product at the end of it that can kind of summarize or show the journey you've been through when you've been in the hospital or the journey you've been through when you've been diagnosed with a long term illness," Cerulli said. 

According to Cerulli, the therapy programs fall under Child Life, where specialists explain to the patient and the family the procedures that will be happening, but also engage the child into activity, play and creativity.

There's no pressure. No one is looking for a virtuoso or an artistic masterpiece.

"It's about learning how to use music or art to help you cope or how to express yourself," Cerulli said. 

Music and arts therapy is one of the programs supported by WDEL's just-completed Help Our Kids Radiothon, for which Mateo served as patient ambassador. Guitars, ukeleles and pianos are constantly being circulated in or out of Cerulli's studio.

She has seen young patients and their families undergo transformations and reach emotional breakthroughs through music and art.

Mateo said the music often pulled him through tough times.

"She was very helpful, and got me through my day."

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.