Some 16 years ago visionary Melbourne doctor and mother of five Catherine Crock AM decided there must be a way to help her young patients cope with traumatic procedures by using music… and the first Hush album was born.
How did you turn your idea into action?
I connected with some of Australia’s foremost musicians and composers who have composed original music to fit my purpose. The music is now played in operating theatres, waiting rooms, recovery and in everyday life to reduce stress and anxiety.
How do the albums work in hospitals?
The music is played in waiting areas, operating theatres, recovery, palliative care units, mental health settings and many aged care and child care centres. It is wonderful how far it has spread in Australia and internationally.
What challenges did you face?
It was often a roller-coaster with some fantastic support from senior colleagues, patients and families, along with some quite destructive push-back from staff who felt threatened by involving patients and families in improving hospital systems and environments. I’ve had wonderful support from my husband and family.
Tell me about the latest HUSH album?
Hush 16: A Piece of Quiet is very special to me because we asked children questions like ‘If there was one rule in the world what should it be?’ Many talked about treating each other with kindness, and their responses were full of wisdom, humour and joy.
We then workshopped the words to turn them into songs. My daughter Michelle Phillips collated all the quotes and then we let the composers work their magic. The performers on this amazing album are Lior, The Idea of North vocal quartet and Elena Kats Chernin, and the collaboration has been pure joy.
What’s your background?
My parents are both doctors and were wonderful role models because of the gentle and respectful way they treated everyone they met. I knew from the age of 12 that I wanted to follow in their footsteps, and studied medicine at Monash University, finding the first few years quite a slog and only really finding my passion once I started seeing patients in the hospital from fourth year on.
My husband Rod Phillips is also in medicine and we have five children who have all been involved in music. There has always been music in the house so it made sense to me to bring that love of music into my medical work. I was brought up a Catholic and went to Sacre Coeur, where the nuns instilled in us the idea that we could ‘flourish where we are planted’. I have kept that in mind in my rather unconventional medical career because of the way I have incorporated the arts into what I do as a way to improve healthcare.
How do you still find time to be a doctor as well as being an entrepreneur?
I work three days a week on my paid job at the hospital and the rest of my week is the Hush project that gives me such joy and energy—I think Hush has helped me to cope better with the stresses of my work, so it goes both ways.
Can you give me an example of the power of the Hush albums?
We have seen very stressed children come into the operating theatre and suddenly pause in their crying to listen intently to the music that is playing. We have also had children come to the hospital when they don’t have an appointment just to hear the music. Many parents have also contacted us to say thanks for the music in the wards when they have had a bad day.
Have you been recognised for this pioneering work?
This work has been recognised in several different ways. We have received the Quality Improvement Award from the ACHS who accredit hospital standards, the APRA/AMCOS award for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music and I was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to medicine, healthcare standards and the arts.
What do you hope for the future of the Hush albums?
I hope the Hush concept of transforming healthcare environments and culture will spread even further and help patients, families and staff to work together in harmony and with excellent communication at every interaction. The music that Hush has produced will be an amazing legacy.