Two Cook Children's Patients Create First-Of-Its-Kind Music Video
'Don't You Know' Video Released for National Bullying Prevention Month
Like so many children and teenagers, 15-year-old Emma’s struggle with bullying is lifelong. She compares being picked on by classmates since kindergarten to losing part of her childhood.
One day in 7th grade, Emma came home especially upset about the cruel words hurled against her. The talented pre-teen picked up her ukulele and wrote a song.
I don't know what I'll do to brush off the dust.
You've really messed me up.
I don't know what I'll do to brush off the dust.
Don't you know, it’s mean to be mean.
Through music, Emma found the relief she desperately needed. Little did she know that song would one day be recorded in a professional studio and have its own music video.
Healing Through Music
Music is a passion for Emma. She plays five instruments and sings, but songwriting may be what she enjoys most.
“Writing music for me has been a big outlet. It helps me deal with a lot of issues,” said Emma in a recent interview with Cook Children’s via Zoom. “Sometimes it's hard to talk about things, but it's so much easier to write to get my feelings across.”
Emma is a long-time Cook Children’s patient. During one of her visits to the medical center several years ago, she stopped by the hospital’s Child Life Zone, which features a fully functional, industry standard recording studio. It was here she met recording studio producer Raymond Turner.
“Emma was one of those patients who could probably write a song every day,” Raymond said. “She had a great voice and played ukulele. So we started talking about the CD project, what it was going to be entitled, and why we wanted it to be called that.”
Each year, Raymond produces an album of songs written and/or performed by Cook Children’s patients. In 2018, the CD was called ‘We Rise’ and aimed to give patients a space to express their feelings about resiliency and overcoming hurdles. Raymond and Emma worked together to take her song, ‘Don’t You Know,’ from a simple tune she’d play from time to time, to a fully-produced track to be featured on the upcoming album.
“It took her a while to actually record it because we talked about every line,” Raymond explained. “I go, ‘Okay, what does that mean? Where did that come from?’ And I know her intent was really to shed light on what she had gone through and the pain of that, but also to let whoever that person was know that at this point, it's not going to affect her.”
Raymond and Emma’s shared goal was to make ‘Don’t You Know’ an empowering anthem to bring awareness to the issue of bullying. When ‘We Rise’ was released, Emma’s song was one of nine on the album. But the work wasn’t over yet. Soon, a new project began that would turn ‘Don’t You Know’ into a music video that would air on CLZ-TV, Cook Children’s 24/7 in-house TV network.
Bringing a song to life
Stella, 16, has been drawing ever since she can remember. She loves art, but wasn’t too keen on painting until she was stuck in a hospital bed at Cook Children’s.
During her stay, a resident artist with the Creative Artist in Residency Programme (CARPE) delivered a canvas and painting supplies to Stella’s room. The program, which focuses on therapeutic art, is designed to provide an artistic outlet to patients who may be feeling fear, anxiety or frustration due to their medical condition. Stella’s painting of her IV bags impressed the artist resident so much, she was invited to appear on CLZ-TV’s art show.
“I was sitting at my desk and I happened to look up and see this patient’s artwork on TV,” Raymond said. “I was like ‘That’s it, that’s the art.’ I knew I had to talk to her about this project.”
Stella eagerly agreed to help illustrate the music video for ‘Don’t You Know.’ She put Emma’s song on repeat and with the words and melody in her mind, got to work illustrating the featured character – a girl with brown hair and big blue eyes. It was a laborious process to draw the many different emotions portrayed in the song. After nearly a year of tedious work, Stella delivered the final artwork that would bring Emma’s song to life.
“I've never personally been bullied before, but whenever I listened to the song, it made sense. It definitely gave me a perspective and understanding of how bullying negatively affects people,” said Stella.
She hopes her art can help amplify the message that bullying is harmful and can leave lasting scars.
“If I could take her song, which I can tell how meaningful it is to (Emma), and do anything to enhance it, to give it a microphone or to make it shine, that would be enough for me,” said Stella. “It’s really satisfying to know that we’re leaving a mark on the world, even if I was a small part of it. It’s really comforting in a sense.”
Their combined efforts made for a first-of-its-kind music video for Cook Children’s. Though the gifted team in the Child Life Zone broadcast studio have made countless videos for CLZ-TV, never have two patients created both the music and the visuals. And even more intriguing, Emma and Stella never met until the project was complete and they were interviewed together via Zoom for this article.
“It’s been neat to see how patients who have never met can come together to work on the same project,” said Raymond. “You would have thought that Stella and Emma sat in a room together. There’s a seamlessness that you feel when you watch and listen.”
Despite their different experiences with bullying, both girls say they hope kids and parents alike can walk away from the video hearing the message loud and clear.
“I hope that people will be able to see the impact of bullying, because for me, it made me feel like I was nothing,” said Emma. “It made me feel like I was worthless and useless. Sometimes people forget that the person they're saying those things to have feelings, and what you say can be life changing.”