Dec. 20, 2023

HGO Artists Bring Healing Music to Houston Methodist Hospital

HGO Teaching Artists Rachel Chao, (left) and Fernando Grimaldo (right)

It's a bright Tuesday morning at Houston Methodist Hospital. Doctors grab lunch from the cantina, nurses clutch medical equipment in their arms as they rush from hall to hall. The hospital is decorated for the holidays, with the garland adorning the balcony and the wreaths lining the walls bringing much-needed cheer to the atrium. Tucked away in one corner sits a gleaming grand piano, and before it stands three HGO Teaching Artists, singers Luisana Rivas and Alejandro Magallón and pianist Rachel Chao, preparing to sing in the Margaret Alkek Williams Crain Garden Performance Series.  

The Crain Garden series brings live music to the hospital every week throughout the year, hosting a variety of artists and ensembles, from harpists to children’s choirs and today, Houston Grand Opera.  

“HGO has had the privilege to work side by side with Houston Methodist Hospital’s music therapists at the Crain Garden,” says Alisa Magallón, Associate Director of Programming and Engagement for Community and Learning at HGO. “We’ve learned so much from their team and are so grateful for this partnership. Providing music in this space has benefits of healing, reduction of stress, and instilling a sense of purpose that is reciprocal for patients, staff, and artists alike.” 

A long-time sponsor of the opera, Houston Methodist Hospital organized myriad special events in partnership with HGO through the years before developing a monthly recital series with the company in 2022.  

hough HGO has been performing here for years, it wasn’t until relatively recently that we started having these recurring performances,” Houston Methodist Hospital Project Specialist M.J. Gallop shares. “They never become stale! The HGO artists always bring a thoughtful program and execute it masterfully.” 

As the first notes ring out, the mood of the room begins to change. Heads turn, conversations taper off, and people flock to the balcony’s edge to watch the performance below. Some even hold up their phones to capture the moment. The artists’ voices echo throughout the space, enticing passersby to stop in their tracks and listen to a program of hymns and excerpts from Mozart’s Don Giovanni 

In addition to the patients themselves, the spectators include family members visiting ailing loved ones, and tired medical staff taking a break from their duties, enjoying a stress-relieving experience amid into an environment that can be tense.  

“The goal of this series is to use music as a way to help them lower their anxiety levels and serve as an almost rejuvenating experience for both families of patients and our staff,” explains Todd Frazier, the Director of the Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital. “It helps them take a breath, get a release from the tension, and then go back to their supportive role with a more positive mindset.” 

Judging by the appreciative applause HGO’s artists elicit from the crowd as the program draws to a close, it’s an approach that pays off. 

“Bellissima!” An onlooker cries from the balcony.  


“Grazi,” replies a smiling Magallón 

about the author
Amber Francis
Amber Francis is Communications Coordinator at Houston Grand Opera.