Arts and Entertainment

Music and inspiration take center stage at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Musical performances in lobbies and common areas at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center offer a calming influence for patients and their families. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

HERSHEY, Pa. — Music is a universal language. It can inspire, nurture and calm the soul beyond words.

And at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, music is a soothing balm for patients, family and staff who flow throughout the facility daily, thanks to the Center Stage Arts in Health program. Lobbies, waiting rooms and common areas become comforting oases from the waves of stress, anxiety and drama found in any hospital environment.

The founders of Penn State College of Medicine blazed the trail for Center Stage by launching a humanities department in 1967. Like the College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine — also celebrating its 50th anniversary — the Department of Humanities was the first of its kind at any medical college in the U.S. As with anything new and different, people at the time questioned why a college of medicine needed a department associated with liberal arts education.

The answer was very simple.

The importance of humanistic treatment is the guiding principle of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. And instilling this philosophy in the future doctors, nurses, faculty members and staff at the College of Medicine would result in a new breed of professionals providing care for the whole person — body, mind and soul — and elevate the college and its graduates in everyone’s eyes. The new department created a greenhouse for a variety of art and music therapies at the hospital like no other in the nation.

Some 50 years later, Center Stage arrived on the scene. “The program was a collaboration of hospital leadership, creative minds and the artist community,” said Claire de Boer, founder of Center Stage and current director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine, where Center Stage now resides. Today, Center Stage offers patients their choice of artworks to brighten their rooms, opportunities to create their own masterpieces while recuperating, creative writing classes with noted authors and more, in addition to its centerpiece of live music.

De Boer recalls the program’s beginnings in 2011: “After just a few musical performances for a handful of people, we thought that we were really onto something.”

By putting creative minds together and building a bond with the artistic community, Center Stage rapidly evolved into a model program for other health care facilities nationwide. The seed money grows every year thanks to the success of the program, support of the hospital and philanthropic organizations that recognize its value to artists, patients and the region.

Read more about the Center Stage Arts in Health program in this Penn State Medicine article.

Last Updated April 18, 2018