People are gathered around as children hold large yellow scissors for the ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the brand new Sophie's Place.
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C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital celebrated the grand opening of Sophie’s Place, a dedicated facility for music therapy, on Wednesday. The $1.5 million studio allows patients to record music, participate in music therapy sessions and perform. 

Sophie’s Place is named after Sophie Rose Barton, a music volunteer at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 17. After Sophie passed, the Forever Young Foundation established Sophie’s Place in her name. The new studio at Mott is the sixth Sophie’s Place in the United States. 

Steve Young, the founder of the Forever Young Foundation, grew up with Sophie’s mother, Anne-Marie Barton. At the grand opening, he said Barb Young, his wife and Forever Young Foundation co-chair, was the first to suggest honoring Sophie after she passed away. According to Steve Young, Barb had previous experience with music therapy with an injured friend in college.

“Everyone thought she was crazy,” Young said. “Like, ‘music therapy, what?’ But music therapy has now become so fundamental as a therapy for changing lives, not just the music itself, (but) for what it does for the brain.” 

Music therapy — the use of music in a controlled setting to achieve health benefits — has been shown to improve functioning with mental disorders and reduce pain and stress, among other benefits. Sophie’s Place, which includes technology that allows for live streaming into patients’ rooms, will allow Mott to triple the amount of music therapy it can provide to patients. David Miller, the president of the University of Michigan Health System, spoke on the use of music therapy at Mott. 

“We see this every day, that there is the physical and medical and clinical aspects of care delivery,” Miller said. “But there is also the emotional and psychological and holistic aspects of care delivery that are so incredibly important, and in particular, in our pediatric patients. In this endeavor, Sophie’s Place, as part of our organization and our institute, is going to be such a catalyst to advancing the comprehensive and holistic care that we provide.” 

Elizabeth Sheeran, who performed at the grand opening, has been a patient at Mott for over 10 years. Sheeran said music therapy has helped her throughout her treatment process. 

“There’s something so special in the power of music,” Sheeran said. “And it’s also, I think, kind of finding normalcy in a very abnormal situation … music can be such a normalizing and grounding thing.”

Sheeran, who was active in music and theater before she got sick, said she was excited to use the instruments and recording studio at Sophie’s Place. But she said she did not even need to hear the music to feel the effects of the new facility. 

“I could just sit in silence in there,” Sheeran said. “There’s just something about that place that you just feel so peaceful and healing. I could do anything in there.”

At the ceremony, Anne-Marie Barton said Sophie’s Place will allow Sophie’s music to live on. 

“Her writing journal of songs, which she left behind — one of eight of her personal journals — said, ‘I wish one day to write 100 songs and sing for thousands of people,’” Barton said. “We’re so grateful for this team that really is allowing Sophie’s wish to come true 12 years later.” 

Barton’s husband, Kent, agreed that Sophie’s Place allows Sophie’s legacy to live on. He said Sophie, as a young teenager, had written a list of things to do before she died. According to Kent Barton, that list included changing somebody’s life. 

“And that’s what’s happening today,” Barton said. “Sophie is changing lives.” 

Summer Managing News Editor Eli Friedman can be reached at