Healing with music

A prescription for music in the time of COVID-19

Jasper Yung, DO, practices the art of healing in the emergency department; he also explores the healing properties of music with the Detroit Medical Orchestra.


For emergency physician Jasper Yung, DO, music has been an essential form of stress relief and healing during the pandemic.

His music career started at the age of 4 with the piano; he added trumpet and violin to his repertoire in middle school and high school, respectively. After a nearly two-decade hiatus, Dr. Yung picked up his violin again after finishing his combined residency program.

He joined the Detroit Medical Orchestra, a collective of health care professionals who play music for the community and explore the healing properties of music, in 2013. Dr. Yung played a pivotal role in his hospital’s Healing Arts Program by coordinating and performing concerts on-site before the pandemic. Music and medicine are both foundational to his development.

The Detroit Medical Orchestra plays for the Healing Arts program at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Dr. Yung encourages other health care professionals to pursue creative outlets for stress relief.

“Our passions are what strengthens our resolve during these difficult times,” says Dr. Yung, who now works as a senior Emergency Medicine/Internal Medicine Staff Physician at Henry Ford-West Bloomfield Hospital in the Detroit area. “The more we connect with our community and with our creativity, the stronger we shape our cultural identity. Medicine helps us to build the foundation for others in their growth and recovery, while our creative outlets become more important than ever to balance the mind and the soul.”

In this edited Q&A, Dr. Yung discusses the healing properties of music, his work with the volunteer orchestra and a memorable socially distant concert.

How has playing music helped you deal with the stress of working in an emergency room during a pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a challenge on fostering hope in the face of the unknown. Music was a reminder that no matter the challenges we face, we are collective in our cause. Playing music in the hospital allows me to build bridges with the community around by striking a connection on another chord.

With the most recent surge in COVID-19, we have been dealing with a strained health care system. The emergency department capabilities have been stretched due to staffing/nursing shortages and the surge of new variants of COVID-19. The pandemic today is a test of endurance.

After those challenging shifts and long days, music helps to soothe the soul. Music has its own healing properties. Playing music allows me to temporarily escape the stress of dealing with the ever-constant changes of the pandemic times.

Dr. Yung plays the piano for patients with pet therapy dog Henry.

Tell us about your work with the Detroit Medical Orchestra.

The Detroit Medical Orchestra includes over 60 physicians, health care professionals and medical students. They perform free concerts for the community and donations go to support local music and medical programs in the community, such as ALS of Michigan and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan.

While social distancing restrictions have impacted larger group settings, the Detroit Medical Orchestra remains vigilant in promoting a healthy environment this concert season with mask-mandates, COVID-19 screenings and vaccination.

Is there a concert you participated in during the pandemic that stands out to you?

In July 2020, Grammy award-winning violinist Joshua Bell invited ten health care providers and musicians to play a multitracked and socially distant performance of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. This musical collaboration helps us understand that we are not alone.

Healing is not a one-dimensional endeavor. It is a holistic and heartfelt experience. I have the deepest appreciation for Joshua Bell and his organization for putting together this project, as each opportunity is a chance to create and a chance to connect as a community.

Dr. Yung plays with Joshua Bell on a multitracked and socially distant performance of Bach's Double Violin Concerto.

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Marrying medicine and music

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