Medicine heals the body, music heals the soul.
It’s the philosophy Ron Nierman abides by, and for his support groups at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, it seems to be doing the trick. This month, SB Magazine takes a different approach to the arts by featuring a music curator with a more scientific background.
Nierman, a licensed professional counselor, loves music. He’s been a lifelong fan of all genres, but in 2011 he was introduced to an album that would forever change his life.
“It was just amazing,” said Nierman of Grammy Award-winning artist Mavis Staples’s 2004 Have A Little Faith. “What set her music apart from a lot of artists is that there’s always a message, and that message was always positive. Always inspiring. And always soulful.”
Nierman shared that he had been a fan of Mavis’s former group, The Staple Singers.
“When I heard this CD, I said ‘I have got to get this for the people in my groups.’”
That was how The Healing Power of Music project was created.
At the time, Nierman had two support groups for cancer patients. He had never used music within his counseling work before, but his support groups had a different focus.
“This group is about bonding with other people who truly know what it’s like to have cancer. I’m a facilitator. It’s really about bonding and banding together, encouraging one another,” he said.
Once he started seeing the need and desire from his patients, he decided to go out on a limb and contact Staples’s record label. He got in touch with Bruce Iglauer, president of the contemporary blues label Alligator Records in Chicago, and formed a partnership to bring personal copies of the album to his support group members. Nierman was finally able to meet Staples during a concert in Baton Rouge, something he said he’d never forget. It was there that Staples shared her excitement about the partnership between her music and the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center support groups, which she described as “a blessed cause.”
Since then, Nierman has added a number of other artists to his curated collection spanning from Stevie Wonder to TLC.
“Here is a CD done by someone with Sickle Cell Disease, and I’m thinking, ‘Imagine me getting these CDs for our patients,’” said Nierman, expressing that he didn’t know much about TLC other than them being a girl group when he first heard their music, specifically Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins.
“Her life was a tremendous commercial success, but T-Boz had this (Sickle Cell Disease). It made a connection to my sickle cell patients that we really didn’t have before,” he said. “This was someone who accomplished a lot and was writing music from that perspective.”
Weekly cancer and sickle cell support groups for LSU patients meet in the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center Bakowski Center for Learning in the first-floor lobby. For more information about this group contact Ron Nierman, MA, LPC, CGP at 318.470.6180.