A big, red box called the Bandwagon, filled with a keyboard, guitars, GarageBand recording software and DJ programs has been rolling around the B.C. Children's Hospital for the last two years.
The $20,000 unit is compact enough to fit between beds where sick kids suffering from a variety of debilitating ailments can learn to make and record music from the confines of their hospital beds with the help of a music therapist.
And it's all because dozens of motorcyclists hop on their bikes and cruise the Sea to Sky highway (with an escort by the Vancouver Police Department) from Richmond to Whistler annually. For the last dozen years the Music Therapy Ride has raised money for music therapy with the cruise every September, but in recent years their goal has become more specific.
"We wanted to develop something that would be more tangible that people could understand," says Patrick Zulinov, co-founder of the ride. "We wanted to create these little mini studios to roll between beds in hospitals."
So far, the organization has funded two units, including another roving Bandwagon that travels to different institutions for six-week residencies. "For every $2,500 we raise, that's six weeks of music therapy," he says.
Zulinov knows first-hand how powerful music can be for healing and health for patients of all ages. "My mother had a stroke a while back. She can't speak well, but she can sing any song. You see how happy it makes her when she can sit and sing because normally she can't get what she wants out of her mind... She can probably play piano better than she can recite the alphabet," he says.
Last year, the ride cruised to Harrison Hot Springs because it conflicted with GranFondo in Whistler, but it will return to the resort this year, culminating in a silent auction, concert by The Washboard Union and barbecue at the GLC. "It's probably one of the most beautiful rides in the world," Zulinov says.
The event has drawn musical guests from the Barenaked Ladies to Jann Arden and Our Lady Peace's Raine Maida. This year, Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Mangan will be the celebrity guest to come along for the ride.
"Language and social context often fall short in the complicated nature of existing," Mangan says in a release. "Thankfully, the wonderful gift of music helps us not only make peace with the chaos, but to explore our emotional frameworks and facilitate healthy discovery. I'm proud to support this year's Music Therapy Ride and Bandwagon program."
There are still $199 tickets available for the Sept. 14 ride, but the event sells out every year. Those without a motorcycle are welcome to bring classic cars or join in at the GLC for the party. For more visit www.musictherapyride.org.