Dr Catherine Crock with a mother and her sick child

Margaret Langdon reports on the wonderful work of Dr Catherine Crock and the Hush Music Foundation.

'Hush' was once synonymous with the 1970s Australian glam-rock band, but these days it's linked to music of an entirely different nature. The Hush Music Foundation produces and distributes music designed to reduce anxiety in hospitals and other potentially stressful environments.

The not-for-profit foundation was started by Dr Catherine Crock (pictured, left), physician in charge of the general anaesthesia list for procedures in children with cancer at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. Cancer treatment involves procedures to monitor progress, such as bone-marrow tests and lumbar punctures, which can be painful and distressing for the children. Crock, who is a mother of five, wondered what could be done to ease the stress of young patients and their parents. "I was thinking, 'This is really hard for the families. What if this was happening to my kids?'" she says. "So I sat down with a group of parents and said, 'Tell me about it,' and we talked about the challenges."

The parents described the hospital operating theatre as an intimidating place of bright lights and machines. They asked if music could be played to take the edge off the stressful surrounds.

Crock brought in classical CDs, but found the music wasn't quite suitable. "You might play some lovely Beethoven or something, but then you'd get to a really dark or loud part and it was a bit off-putting," she says. Crock contacted musicians to record more appropriate soothing and calming music, and the Hush Collection was born.

"The first CD went gangbusters," says Crock. "It was so popular, not only with families in my operating theatre, but other people coming past asking, 'Can we have that for our operating theatre or waiting room?' We thought maybe we could raise some money for the hospital, so we put it on sale and in the first year raised $350,000. We had no idea this would happen."

Ten years later, the Hush Foundation has sold more than 63,000 copies of the 12 CDs produced so far. Volume 13 of the Hush Collection will comprise original compositions – one each from 10 different composers – performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. The CD will be launched in Hobart in December at a concert to be broadcast on ABC Classic FM.

Composers, musicians, technicians and the other participants donate their time and talents, although a small honorarium is sometimes paid to composers in recognition of their contribution.

When a new CD is released, copies are donated to hospitals and other medical facilities throughout Australia and to some hospitals overseas. More than $1.2 million has been raised from the sale of Hush CDs, and after costs of production have been covered, the remaining funds are donated to 12 children's hospitals and wards around the country. The funds support projects such as music or play therapy, pain-medication pumps or palliative care. "We're not prescriptive about what it's used for," says Crock, "but it's kept in the spirit of the thing, which is pain management and reducing stress for families."

Crock has won several awards for her work over the years. She is also co-founder and executive director at the Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care (AIPFCC), a not-for-profit organisation working to develop effective partnerships between patients, families and healthcare professionals.

Some of the AIPFCC's foundations were laid when Crock spoke with patients' families about the challenges they faced. "It led to starting Hush, but then also to what is now called patient and family-centred care – actually putting those people at the centre of what we're doing and thinking about and being guided by them," she says. "That's the big picture for me, and I didn't even really know what it was in those days."

Hush CDs are available from music and book retail outlets, by download from the iTunes store, or through the Hush website: www.hush.org.au.

For more information about the AIPFCC, visit www.aipfcc.org.au.

PHOTO: Dr Catherine Crock (left) with Charlotte Pope and her mother, Susan Pope.

Children's hospitals and wards that benefit from Hush fundraising
The Canberra Hospital
The Sydney Children's Hospital
Kaleidoscope Hunter Children's Health Network
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
The Royal Darwin Hospital
The Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane
The Mater Children's Hospital
The Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide
Royal Hobart Hospital
The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne
Monash Medical Centre
The Princess Margaret Hospital for Children

The Hush Collection
Volume 1: Trio Grande by Trio Grande, 2001
Volume 2: Young Virtuosos, by Young Virtuosos, 2002
Volume 3: Love's Calendar by Paul Grabowsky, 2003
Volume 4: Duo Odyssey by Trub-Brown Duo, Duo Sol, 2004
Volume 5: Trinity College Choir by Trinity College Choir, 2005
Volume 6: Reflections by John O'Donnell, Dr Jacqueline Ogeil, 2006
Volume 7: Ten Healing Songs by Paul Grabowsky, 2007
Volume 8: A Castle for All by Andrea Keller, 2008
Volume 9: Is It Spring Yet? by Tony Gould, 2009
Volume 10: Songs with Strings by various artists, 2010
Volume 11: Luminous - Inspired by Mozart by Joe Chindamo, 2011
Volume 12: The Wind in the Willows by Mark Isaacs, 2012

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