Conscious Party: Heartbeats Live

POWER DUO: Melissa Hyman and pediatric patient Brooklyn pause while recording the latter's original song "I Love You, Mom," at Echo Mountain Recording Studios. The tune and others crafted through Arts for Life's Heartbeat Sessions project, spearheaded by Hyman, will be performed June 27 at The Mothlight. Photo courtesy of Arts for Life

WHAT: A concert and art show to benefit Arts for Life

WHEN: Wednesday, June 27, 6-8 p.m.

WHERE: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road

WHY: In 2014, music therapist Brian Schreck at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital began using an improvised stethoscope microphone to capture patients’ heartbeats. He then helped the children choose a song to record over the pulses and crafted the piece at home.

A child life specialist at Mission Hospital brought the story to the attention of Arts for Life music teacher and performer Melissa Hyman (The Moon and You; Cowboy Judy) and suggested she do something similar for the Asheville nonprofit. Shortly thereafter, Jessica Tomasin, studio manager at Echo Mountain Recording Studios, enthusiastically offered her workplace and collaborated with Hyman to craft their own version of Schreck’s model, calling it the Heartbeat Sessions.

With Hyman’s help, some participants select an existing song while others choose to write their own original lyrics. Various approaches also extend to the instrumentation, with some patients having lots of ideas about how they want the song to sound and others letting the musicians — most of whom donate their time and talents — decide. The project has averaged six sessions a year so far and it usually only takes a few weeks to go from a patient expressing interest in participating to the recording of a finished track.

“In the studio, we take a sample of the heartbeat that is nice and steady and our amazing recording engineer Clay Miller samples it out over the length of a track, and so it becomes the first and most important rhythm element in the recordings themselves,” Hyman says.

The versions of these songs created for each child will be played at Heartbeats Live on Wednesday, June 27, at The Mothlight. A core group of Ross Montsinger (percussion), Kent Spillmann (drums), Andrew Platt (bass) and Kevin Williams (keys) will play the entire set. They’ll be joined at various points by Hyman, Doug Murray, Nora Garver, Beth Magill, Ruby Mayfield, Lee Stanford, Dulci Ellenberger and other special guests.

Selections include “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and an original tune called “I Love You, Mom” by 12-year-old patient Brooklyn, who sang the lead vocal on her recording and will be singing live with the band at the show. The first pressing of The Heartbeats Sessions Vol. 1 has been ordered and will be given to the participating families and some Arts for Life donors, as well as be available to the public for donations at the Mothlight event. There will also be a hands-on art activity for kids of all ages and pediatric patient artwork on display, the sales from which allow Arts for Life to continue making a difference through the Heartbeat Sessions.

“Some of the participants are doing great now, health-wise, and for them it’s this really fun, proud moment and memory that they can take forward with them after this really difficult and scary phase of their life,” Hyman says. “We’ve lost three of the children so far that have participated in the sessions, and so for them it’s a really different memento where it’s a part of their legacy that their family has to remember them by and hear their heartbeat in a song that they were part of creating.”

Heartbeats Live takes place Wednesday, June 27, 6-8 p.m. at The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road. Free to attend. Donations are welcome and sales from artwork and prints support Arts for Life’s programs.


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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One thought on “Conscious Party: Heartbeats Live

  1. boatrocker
    My little brother got a tape recorder like this as kids for Xmas in the ’80’s. I suggested he fart into the speaker.
    I got nothin’, nothin’ for George Martin/Eddie Kramer/Quincy Jones producer street cred.

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