Daniel Rubins is a musician and heartivist. He founded Hear Your Song, a non-profit organization that empowers children and teens with serious illnesses to make their voices heard through collaborative songwriting.
It all started with a special school experience and a wise teacher.
When Daniel was in 5th grade, his teacher formed a partnership between his class and the children at Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, New York. Daniel’s buddy, Melissa, was non-verbal, but they were able to communicate through her aide. The goal of this experience was to give young students the conviction that their buddies were as richly human and deserving of friendship as they were. In high school, Daniel returned to Elizabeth Seton to give a brief piano and sing-along performance: sitting in the front row was Melissa.
This memory and the seeds it planted in Daniel’s heart inspired him to find a way to give voice to kids with complex health needs. Together with Rebecca Brudner, he started Hear Your Song while still a student at Yale University seven years ago.
In live songwriting sessions, Hear Your Song volunteers work with children and teens to guide them through the process of writing their own song lyrics. Then, in collaboration with more volunteers, they set those words to music and record the song to be heard, celebrated, and shared.
“As musicians and artists – especially as collaborative artists engaging in dialogue and truly listening to each other – it is our special responsibility to strive for a common world in which all voices can be heard and every child’s song can be sung.”
Hear Your Song has active student chapters at Yale University, Smith College, Dartmouth College, and Hunter College High School. They also maintain hospital, school, and camp partnerships at the national level, as well as collaborations with individual families, that engage the broader volunteer community beyond and among campus-based chapters.
This incredible network of music and kindness has been inordinately impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In order to be able to continue delivering their program and reach the children hospitalized or isolated at home, Daniel and Rebecca decided to develop a virtual platform. Seed funding from The Pollination Project supported this initiative.
The new web platform will strengthen their partnerships, help establish new ones, and also create opportunities to train and mentor new leaders at their various campus-based chapters. Most of all, it will allow Daniel and his team of volunteers to break through the isolation of many kids facing health challenges, bringing their voices to the surface and opening spaces for creativity and self-expression.