Music can be a very powerful tool. Sanford Health has decided to use it as a tool to help young patients who are going through some of the most difficult times of their lives.

Sanford has been using music therapy as a method since 2019. KX News spoke with the woman who has turned music into a way of healing, and one of the kids who’s experienced that magic.

Five-year-old Bella has been using music therapy to help take her mind her illness ever since she was first diagnosed with cancer. While she loves to paint, she says nothing gets her going like a session with Bobbi Jo Vandal, her music therapist.

Vandal says, “Everyday is different in music therapy– some days are filled with joy and singing “Old McDonald” and writing songs about silly animals and playing xylophones and some days are really sad, but it offers people so much joy and comfort no matter where they are at in their hospital journey.”

Vandal is the only music therapist in Bismarck at this time. She studied music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston and has over 1,200 hours of clinical work in the field. She works with the kids by playing instruments with them, singing and songwriting, playing musical games, and much more.

“Music is just so special to people in general. Music is just so built into us,” says Vandal. “As a music therapist, I can use music in a really thoughtful way. Music therapy is often used to help create self-expression. And like the lil gal you saw it really helped her to find her voice and I see that all the time.”

Bobbi Jo works with babies in the NICU all the way up to teenagers. Her patients could be fighting cancer or simply coming in with a broken arm. She will sing with them, play instruments, write songs, or in Bella’s case even create a music video.

The music therapy team has been able to help hundreds of kids and bring comfort to not only them but their family as well. This could be through support with any social, emotional, cognitive, physical, or neurological goals they might need.

Vandal says, “In a world where they don’t have any control– which can be so scary and that can be scary for adults as well as children. So if I can give control to them over their environment for an half hour of their day that can be super impactful.”

For Bella and many other youngsters at Sanford, Bobbi Jo’s music has helped them get through some of the toughest moments of their lives.

They hope the program will expand and maybe even offer it to adults in the future. This never shows up on a patients bill, due to generous donations from the community.