An artist with heart: Leonidas Kavakos saves the lives of newborns

An artist with heart: Leonidas Kavakos saves the lives of newborns


norman lebrecht

May 13, 2018

This is a rough translation from a Greek report:

It has to be the most moving story I have heard over the years as a journalist. I was told by Leonidas Kavakos himself. A short time ago, the musician came to visit the intensive care unit of the newborns at the Children’s Hospital. He has seen the heroic efforts made by doctors to help infants and the difficult conditions in which they worked. The medical equipment is obsolete and many machines need upgrading. The director of the unit, Yannis Kapetanakis, begged him to come in with his violin to play for the newborn who give a real fight to keep alive.

He did. He played Bach to the babies, alone in their ward. After a few minutes, the miracle happened. Their intense heartbeats began to fall and his music proved to be medicine. Some of the infants were hours or days old. Yet their reaction to music was immediate. “It was an experience that I will never forget,” said Leonidas Kavakos. It is therefore no accident that the proceeds from his two appearances with the Athens State Orchestra in Athens and Thessaloniki this week will go to strengthen the unit, the Intensive Care Unit of the same hospital as well as the Parents’ Association Of Children with Neoplastic Diseases of Northern Greece, “Lampsis” in Thessaloniki.

Read on here.



  • Sharon says:

    What a heartwarming story! Music can be a tremendous healer. I have seen this with elderly also in long term care

    Another way it heals is that it helps heal the parents by the side of these critically ill children. In addition to helping the children directly music helps the children because they respond to the stress of their parents. If the parents are less stressed so are the kids even if they are very young. Or as we say in the US, “If Mama ain’t happy then nobody’s happy.”

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Very worthwhile cause.

    Music therapy can go very far and doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

  • Been Here Before says:

    Some artists can inspire us through their gift of music and literally lift our mood and energy. There were performances that left me dizzy and during which I felt transported to another plane. Such occasions are forever imbibed in my mind and I feel eternal gratitude to the artists that provided me with such enriching experiences.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Entirely agreed.

      This touching story also shows that we come into the world with a personality, albeit locked-up in a small blob without communicative means. With people suffering from dementia, music is the last thing to go. Also people with motoric problems are much helped by (classical) music.

      It goes without saying that repertoire has to be selected carefully; for instance, the Schoenberg violin concerto would surely discourage newborns to look forward to life with some confidence:

      And even girls would surely be somewhat taken aback on the prospect of modern feminism:

      • Petros Linardos says:

        You may like this story.

        Back in early 2000, I attended a violin recital by Midori at Schloss Elmau. The auditorium was small and the audience included a mother with a baby.

        The first piece was classical, I think Beethoven. Baby was quiet. Then on to Webern. Baby started crying and mom rushed him/her out. My (then) girlfriend and I struggled not to laugh out loud.

        In the meantime, as a parent myself, I now know this could have been a fluke. But I’ve also experienced many instances when my children weeks old responded to tonal music.

        • John Borstlap says:

          That story does not surprise me… It reminds me of various new music concerts where audience members afterwards left the hall with an expression on their face of utter discomfort while saying to each other how interesting it all was.

  • Sue says:

    What a wonderful and talented violinist. I’ve seen this artist twice in the concert hall and both times was very impressed.

  • Graeme Withers says:

    One has to wonder if something similar might be true for Alzheimer’s patients in despair?

  • Rabbie says:

    I sent this to a friend who is a paediatrician at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital who writes:

    It doesn’t surprise me but is a beautiful story. Our previous Music Therapist, a professional cellist, used to calm babies by playing increasingly slowly and quietly. Their heart and respiratory rates would drop and they would be lulled to sleep. She would also do the same by singing to them and would teach their parents how to do the same. In utero, their mothers’ heart beats must be relatively loud and so babies have an intrinsic sense of rhythm when they are born. LK is a generous and hugely talented star!

  • Alexander Kerr says:

    He is with us this week in Dallas…a true mensch and an amazing artist. I’m lucky to call him a friend.