By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
When she sits at the piano to play, Chloe Crockett is transported to another world. A world where war hasn’t devastated a country she adores or people she loves.
The haunting melody she plays in the lobby of Simon Family Tower at Riley Hospital for Children is called “Ukrainian Soul.” It’s a composition she and another musician – a friend in Ukraine – began to write earlier this year, before war arrived at the Eastern European nation’s doorstep.
Crockett is in her final semester at the University of Indianapolis, where she is studying to be a music therapist. For the past several months, she has been coming to Riley one afternoon a week to work with patients under the supervision of Riley music therapist Kalin Hagedorn.
The experience has reaffirmed her desire to work with children in a hospital setting, where she believes the power of music promotes healing.
“It’s been amazing,” the 21-year-old musician said. “The opportunity to come here and be able to practice my skills and grow as a student music therapist has been amazing. Kalin has been so supportive and encouraging and structured in what I’m required to do and what the expectations are.”
Crockett sees two to three patients during the block of time she is at Riley, primarily in the neonatal intensive care unit. She has also spent time on the PICU and in hematology-oncology.
“I’ve learned so much just about what it’s like to work with patients in really vulnerable situations,” she said.
FIRST TRIP TO UKRAINE WAS IN 2019
She has been playing piano since she was 3 and says it is her instrument of choice, but she also loves to sing and play guitar. The latter two skills are key to her work within Riley because music therapists travel from room to room seeing patients.
Crockett, who grew up in Whiteland and was home-schooled, traveled to Ukraine for the first time in 2019. She was there with members of her church to do a service project and was struck by the beauty of the country and its people.
She returned in 2021 and helped put on a camp for children, and that’s when she met Olena Diukova, who wrote a song for the camp and helped teach it to the kids. The two became fast friends.
When Crockett returned to the States, she began thinking about composing a song to honor Ukraine for her senior recital. She asked Diukova if she would collaborate with her, and the UIndy student returned to Ukraine in January of this year, just weeks before Russian forces invaded the country.
While she hoped to see her friend in person during that trip, it did not work out, but the two connected online afterward to write the first two pages of “Ukrainian Soul.”
Crockett said she did not sense any increased tension on the streets of Kiev, the nation’s capital, in January, but everything changed when the first missiles struck.
FINDING MEANING IN MUSIC
“The country is such a special place to me. I’ve fallen in love with the people there – so gracious and kind and loving. It breaks my heart that for now I won’t be able to return … but to find a way to encourage them and use my skills as a musician is special to me.”
When war broke out, Crockett assumed the project would be put on hold. She contacted Diukova immediately to see if she was OK, and her friend said she planned to remain in Kiev.
As things deteriorated, Diukova fled to another part of the country, then eventually resettled in Belgium.
“What I’ve learned about the war is that things change by the hour,” Crockett said.
Still, Diukova wanted to continue the composition project.
“We each wrote half of the theme, and we are writing individual variations,” said Crockett, who will perform the song at her senior recital at UIndy on Saturday night, April 30.
While the original goal was to blend the sounds of Ukrainian and American music and bridge the gap between the two cultures, Crockett said war brings even more meaning to the piece.
“The war is so sad and devastating and so unjust,” she said, but the song allows the two women to “commemorate the beauty of Ukraine, yet also the sorrow.”
Crockett, who plans to return to Europe in June to help Ukrainian refugees, said her experience at Riley has crystallized her vision of the power of music.
“Just like music is helping patients here in this amazing facility with these amazing nurses and amazing staff and music therapists, so the power of music can speak to people all across the world. It truly is a universal language,” she said.
Hagedorn is just a few years older than Crockett, but she is proud of the music therapy student’s heart, her work ethic and her desire to connect with people through music.
“Chloe is hardworking and curious, and she asks great questions about the why behind what we’re doing here at Riley,” Hagedorn said. “It’s great to see the growth in her.”
As a music therapy student, Crockett, who is engaged to be married in August, has learned a lot about the psychological and emotional effects of music on the body.
“That is something I see within this population (at Riley) – the effects of music on our emotions and how we’re able to express ourselves.”
Once she attains her music therapy credentials, she would love to take music therapy to other countries like Ukraine, she said, where she can use some of the therapeutic and clinical skills she learned here.
“There is nothing more expressive that everyone can understand than music. It touches the lives of everybody in such a special way.”
Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, email@example.com