What Is In Your Children’s Hospital Playbook?

Designing your music event: How do you determine what music should be in your playbook?

Let’s look at a possible children’s hospital pancake breakfast which includes patients and their families.

What is the setting?

A large room with round tables where individual families are sitting and eating and a breakfast buffet at one end. Patients range in age form infants to pre-teens, but families include a wider age range.

Once you have established what musicians are going to be involved in the event, the most important factors to consider when deciding what music to include in your playbook are:

What are the most important goals of the event:

  • Include the whole family in a musical activity?
  • Enable families to see other families going through similar, possibly stressful, experiences?
  • Enable families to have a positive, non-medical opportunity to relax?

What cautions or parameters do they want to set: e.g. not too loud, not too energetic, be prepared to provide calming down music, keep selections short (patients tire easily) so you can stop and play something else, nothing sad, optimistic music?

Music selection:

What music do the children already know? What is familiar? What instruments do they know? Do they play an instrument or have they sung in a group?

How do you introduce yourself if they are not familiar with your instrument? Is there music you can start with that many of them know?

Example: Are you sleeping (round) to Telemann canonic duo.

  • You could play as they get their breakfast and sit down, so they get familiar with the sound of your instruments, then go from table to table introducing yourself to the families and beginning to feel out the state of and receptiveness of the patients.
  • If you want to stay further away from individual families, you could play dance music of many types and encourage the children to follow the lead of someone who will coordinate that activity.
  • You could ask them to try conducting as you play something
  • You could have them clap rhythmically or otherwise accompany your playing.
  • They could do the hand and arm motions to children’s songs

What else?

So your playbook needs to have quite a range of possibilities. That way if you want to prolong an activity you can.

With that in mind, here is a sample of what might be in a book for two string players:


  • Rounds, canons
  •  Telemann A Canon in unison
  • Mozart Allegro up to 4 parts
  • Gentle John up to 3 parts
  • Haydn Allegro pizzicato up to 3 parts
  • Leclair duo Giga
  • What else could you play?


  • Brahms Lullaby
  • Bach Gavotte II ou la Musette in G
  • Bach  Loure, solo violin
  • Bach cello suite Prelude , Minuetto I and II, Sarabanda G
  • Scarborough Fair/All the pretty little horses (these aree in minor keys. Is that OK?)
  • Coventry Carol (this is seasonal)
  • Loch Lomon’
  • Mozart Papageno’s Song from Magic Flute
  •  Schubert Litanie
  • Puccini O Mio Babbino Caro

FAMILIAR (Interactive) tunes.

What are kids this age currently hearing? They may not know what you know! Raffi? the Wiggles? Spongebob? Which  of those songs are you willing to play?

  • Bingo
  • Eency weency spider
  • I’ve been working on the railroad
  • Kookaburra
  • London Bridge
  • Old MacDonald
  • Pop! Goes the weasel
  • The farmer in the dell
  • Twinkle twinkle/ABCD


MARCHING, DANCING OR CONDUCTING (What other styles would work?)


  • Bear Creek Hop
  • Cattle in the Cane
  • Cooley’s Reel
  • Drowsy Maggie
  • Irish Washerwoman
  • The Kirn
  • Lannigan’s Ball
  • Old joe Clark
  • Say Old Man (can you play the fiddle)
  • Sleepy Maggie
  • Chicken Reel
  • Other local fiddle music?
  • In the hall of the mountain king
  • March of the toreadors


  • Ashokan Farewell (If this evokes sadness or funerals, not a good idea)
  • Lulle me Beyond Thee
  • My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose
  • Skaters Waltz
  • Sports: What other sports songs do you have in your community?
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game
  • Skaters Waltz
  • Pennsylvania Polka, or your local football song

Songs or pieces with local roots

What should this include?

Seasonal What is appropriate for your audience in your community? So for a fall event the song themes could include:

  • Harvest
  • Thanksgiving
  • Fall/leaves
  • School starting
  • Pumpkins/ Halloween
  • Apples/cider/syrup

What else?

For more on this topic visit