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Bald So Hard

January 29, 2015

Mike Mahoney, MA Music Therapy ’11 helped Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia cancer patient Tom Gillin create the viral ‘Bald So Hard’ video featured on Today in September.

“Tom had the idea to put together a video that would feature as many people as he could gather from around the hospital,” Mahoney, who works as a music therapist at CHOP, said. “He had a ton of ideas about funny scenes to shoot, but he needed the music to match the visuals, so he reached out to me for that.”

Gillin wanted the video to show people the cancer experience from a different angle, and educate the public about what it was really like for him. Gillin and Mahoney came together on the lyrics at first and then Mahoney oversaw the recording of the song.

Drexel Art Therapy alumna Abbien Crowley, MA ’06 also helped Gillin with the video. Gillin shot the video with his iPhone and received help from CHOP’s media department to edit the shots together.

“I think he landed on a different sort of inspiration with his video, because of his unique personality and vision,” Mahoney said. “It was a huge project, and he just never let up until it was finished.”

The experience of making the video and having it show up in the media was overwhelmingly positive for the patients and hospital staff. Mahoney said the video succeeded in bringing together people of all different roles, including doctors, nurses, social work, child life, environmental services, and media, plus the creative arts therapists. “It was great fun for us, and a great analogy of how we try to come together around our patients every day!”

Mahoney has been working as a music therapist at CHOP since August 2011. He uses musical means to help patients and their families feel better about being in the hospital. One way he does that is by allowing a patient to express the story he/she is compelled to tell, in the vocabulary that fits best. “Tom told his story though his very ambitious music video, using a vocabulary that includes lots of humor and cool modern music,” he said.

For other patients, Mahoney said he may provide experiences that support a patient's development, like offering musical stimulation to an infant confined to one room for several months, or leading a music therapy group where patients can meet and interact musically, allowing them to connect with other kids while they're away from school.

While there are no plans for another music video in the immediate feature, Mahoney continues to act as a resource for the patients.

“In the meantime, I'm always excited to help patients' expression happen on a smaller scale -- in patient rooms and playrooms, and sometimes recorded on the family's iPad,” Mahoney said.

by Helen Nowotnik ‘14