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live / 2019

Singing Is Caregiving

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Urban Encore Symphony and Singers

Urban Encore will sing and make music with caregivers and patients facing serious illnesses. Project Angel Food provides nutritious meals and when people with serious illnesses come to pick up their food or eat at the food distribution sites, our musicians have a chance to perform and interact with them. Our goal is to empower musicians to give cancer, AIDS patients, and their caregivers a period of relief using a non-pharmacological approach.

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Project Angel Food

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

When I was in fifth grade my grandmother on my dad’s side moved in with us. She had just been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

After a long day of work my mother would come home to take care of her needs with kindness. She cooked food that grandma could easily digest. My mother’s heart was full of empathy and she never spoke a word of complaint.

For the next six months our home was filled with the painful sound of agony, severe coughing, and spitting. My chubby grandmother turned into wrinkled skin and bones. One morning she passed away in her sleep. I was young but the pain was real.

My dad, a tall, muscular Korean, cried in front of his daughters for the first time.

I began to wonder what I, as a musician, could do to help patients and their caregivers after other people were affected by serious illnesses.

In the last couple of years I have been reading up on the scientific discoveries surrounding the benefits of interactive group singing among cancer patients and their caregivers. Most of the studies on this topic found that stress hormones were significantly reduced, and immune systems were boosted after just 30 minutes to an hour of interactive group singing.

I also discovered that Los Angeles boasts the largest population of musicians and artists in the United States. However, like most of the U.S., it does not have a cancer support choir.

In response, I recruited several musician friends and went to the Los Angeles County hospital in October of 2018.

We filled the oncology/hematology units and chemotherapy rooms with music and made them forget about their suffering. Every time we went people felt better.

Their caregivers felt especially comforted.

On one occasion we were singing “Cielito Lindo,” in Spanish, to a mother who had terminal cancer and her daughter who was taking care of her. They began smiling and humming with us until we sang the line “Canta y no llores,” which means “Sing and don’t cry.” At that point the caregiving daughter burst into tears. When my friend and I looked at her, she opened her arms to us, and we tightly embraced each other.

This experience has repeated itself many times in the last four months. As a result, we founded Urban Encore Symphony and Singers.

Which of the live metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Healthcare access
  • Residents receiving coordinated healthcare services

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA

How will your project make LA the best place to live?

Currently Project Angel Food and Urban Encore are analyzing efficient and effective ways to collaborate beyond the following.

A. Personnel: A Project Angel Food administrator, Urban Encore administrator, Urban Encore’s team of professional and emerging singers and instrumentalists.


The team of musicians will survey potential workshop participants at the food distribution site. The survey will collect information about preferred music. Musicians will then research, find, purchase, and learn the requested music.


Number of participants: 1-30

Four components of the program:

  1. Welcome: Everyone welcomes, appreciates, shares good thoughts to each of the participants

  2. Listen: Inspirational, live vocal and instrumental music. Listeners are encouraged to write thoughts, lyrics, and poems to use later in the program.

  3. Engage: Musicians and audience participants sing or play favorite, familiar songs.

  4. Create: Participants are encouraged to create melodies, musical gestures, and share what they wrote earlier. These compositions will be collected and made into 3-5 group compositions that will be featured during milestone celebrations.

B. Served Population: “About 41.3 million people age 15 or older provided unpaid eldercare during 2015 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As it stands, about a third of adults have taken on the role of caregiver, while 22 percent expect to in the future, the Northwestern Mutual study shows.” - CNBC

Project Angel Food reports that they serve people in Los Angeles who cannot shop or cook their meals because of “Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, congestive heart failure, COPD, diabetes, end-stage renal disease, HIV/AIDS, stroke-cardiovascular accident and/or other serious diseases.”

C. A timeline of activities:

June and July - Planning meetings with musicians and administrators, advertising, inviting, and surveying potential participants, preparing songbooks.

August through December- Workshops begin, collect data, inviting, first milestone celebration to present collaborative works to invited close friends and family in December.

January through May - Workshops continue, second milestone celebration in May.

D. Our project will accelerate progress toward making L.A. the healthiest place to live by taking a non-pharmacological approach to emotional, social, and physical health. We will enhance the coordinated healthcare services that residents receive. Through this model, Los Angeles can become a leader in the movement to heal caregivers and their patients through music.

Our goal is to reach 200 caregivers and patients during the one-year timeline. Currently, Project Angel Food serves an average of 30 clients per week at the Communal Meals location. We are also developing ways to invite the caregivers of Project Angel Food clients. The other potential organization serves an average of 50 clients per week.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Lateral application (testing feasibility of a proven action/solution to a new issue or sector)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Urban Encore, a new music organization, will consider itself successful if caregivers and patients facing serious illnesses show an improvement in their quality of life.

We will evaluate the emotional, social, and physical state of the participants before and after the workshops for each of the 10 weeks during a ten-month period. If we see overall improvement among the participants we will consider our project a success. Additionally, we will use the information we gather as a benchmark for further projects that will involve improved changes to our workshop.

The age and type of illness of the patients and their caregivers are purposefully placed at the end of the survey in order for these to not affect their answers. Blood pressure will be measured and recorded. Below is a sketch of what the survey will look like. Participants will rank their experience of each category on a scale of 0-10.








Overall emotional health







Overall social health



Increased activity


Breath better

Bodily Pain

Overall physical health

Blood Pressure


Type of illness:

Type of illness that caregivers take care of: