Celtic Harpists


Boston Children's offers live harp music for patients, families and staff sponsored by the Chaplaincy.

  • Two certified music practitioners, trained for the hospital setting, visit Boston Children's.
  • Harpists visit for 9 hours/week in half-hour sessions.
  • The harp creates a calming musical environment conducive to healing and reflection.
Harpists are available by request to all ICU's, dialysis units, surgical waiting areas and various patient care units.


The Celtic Harpists program at Children's is made possible by the David S. Weiner Award for Leadership and Innovation in Child Health, 2006.

Positive effects of harp music

  • A single 20-minute session of live harp music was effective in decreasing pain and anxiety in newly post-op cardiac and thoracic patients-Aragon, Farris and Byers, 2002.

  • Cancer patients who received 30 minutes of live harp music experienced anxiety reduction and decreased respiratory and heart rates-Briggs, 2003.
  • Live harp music lulls newborns for 30 minutes following session, significantly reducing heart rate, inducing deeper sleep and improved behavioral scores. Recorded music had no significant effect on any of the parameters-Stanelow, 2006.
  • Live harp music is an effective form of palliative care, lowering agitation and wakefulness, enhancing easier breathing with less effort-Am J Hosp Palliative Care, 2006.

Audience response

"It's been a busy and intense morning. But you'll notice the stress level of our staff and families decrease 2-3 times when the harpist comes." - Attending PICU MD

"Absolutely wonderful! I have chemotherapy today and I was anxious until I sat and listened to the music." Cancer patient

"I felt lousy after my diagnosis, but hearing your harp music today was like the sun appearing on a cloudy day. I feel inspired to embark on the challenges ahead of me." Cancer Center patient

"As a staff member on this busy unit, I find it extremely relaxing... It helps me take a deep breath and then I can refocus." PICU RN

"Oh no, it's my time to go to lunch. I'm going to miss it!" NICU RN

"This sounds so real it must be a Bose radio... oh it's real! How great." NICU MD

"It's called a harp... Isn't it beautiful?" A PICU RN to her pediatric patient

Harpist performing for staff

By the touch of these strings,
And the blessings of God,
May you receive all you need:
hope, healing, comfort and peace.