Friday, June 14, 2013

Songs of Love Heals Our Youth

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

A harmonious chorus echoes from Forest Hills, and resonates in the hearts of children and their families countrywide.  This chorus has played an influential role by healing and boosting the emotions of children and teens with some chronic and terminal diseases.  One man’s heart pumps in the direction of our youth, to instill their hearts with hopeful visions of tomorrow. His name is John Beltzer, a Forest Hills resident who founded the Songs of Love Foundation in 1996.

As of June 2013, 23,900 children spanning age 1 to 21 have received their Song of Love, which is an original composition orchestrated by diverse songwriters and singers, commissioned by Songs of Love. Most often, brochures are mailed to hospitals nationally, and a child’s parents complete a profile sheet with their child’s name and information on their hobbies, special interests, pets, friends, and family members. Then the child receives the gift of a personalized song to rejoice their life. Songs are composed in the child’s favorite genre, such as pop, kids, R&B, rock, alternative, rap, classical, or jazz.

Songs of Love is situated at 107-40 Queens Boulevard, and consists of three full-time staff members who work with 40 songwriters nationally. To date, songs have been composed in at least thirty languages, so every culture can be included. As a result of Songs of Love’s great success locally and nationally, Beltzer expanded his operation to Brazil, where hundreds of children have received their Song of Love.

A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Beltzer settled in Brooklyn at age 8 and moved to Forest Hills at age 15. He convinced his father to buy him a drum set, and taught himself how to play the drums, followed by piano and guitar. His fraternal twin brother Julio played guitar. They collaboratively composed songs and then formed the top 40 band, “Cameon.” In 1984, 2 months before Julio died at age 24, he composed a song called “Songs of Love.” In January 1996, after John Beltzer came off a record deal which did not materialize, he experienced “an epiphany to create a national non-profit organization,” which he named “Songs of Love” in his brother’s memory. 
Songs of Love inspires children experiencing diseases such as Leukemia, brain tumors, heart conditions, Cystic Fibrosis, Autism, Liver Disease, as well as physical disabilities. “We use songs as tools of healing on a mass scale,” stated Beltzer, who estimated that 70 percent of children who received their Song of Love are alive today. If a child dies, their song is played at their funeral. “This keeps the beauty and spirit of the child alive forever in song,” he added.

Throughout history, music has proven to be therapeutic. Songs of Love has received thousands of letters of gratitude. Beltzer explained, “A typical story involves a child undergoing chemotherapy and hearing their song during the treatment. This helps alleviate their pain, fear, and trauma, and builds self-esteem. When you hear a song you like, it promotes feelings of wellness, and the brain releases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins.” He further explained, “Parents tried to share many things with their child, but nothing worked. Only a ‘Song of Love’ made them smile.”
Songs of Love receives many letters of gratitude from children and their families. In an October 2012 interview, 12 year-old Makayla Redmon of Arverne, NY explained how Songs of Love serves as her beacon of hope. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January 2012 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. “I got my Songs of Love disc during Chemo in March 2012, and each time I listened to it, I felt happier and better. It made me feel like people actually cared. On all the long trips to and from the hospital, my family and I would sing along. The song was a rap, and I called it ‘Makayla's Song.’ It was sung by a church choir in Texas.”

 Redmon explained how she played it for her family in California and North Carolina, and her friends. Her mother posted it on Facebook. She skyped with her Grandma Sherry, Aunt Aimee, and Cousin/Best Friend Hailee. At Long Island Jewish Hospital, she also shared it with her social worker Ingrid, her doctor Sandra Cohen, P.A., her child life specialist Faye Brick, and nurses in P.A.C.T 4, where she received her treatment. Makayla also starred in a Songs of Love commercial. Redmon received her PET and CAT Scan, to determine if she has fully recovered. With utmost gratitude, she stated, “I hope that any kids that Songs of Love helps after me gets at least half the enjoyment that I did.”

Recently, one letter read, “Music is one of Keely’s greatest pleasures. Her face lights up when she hears music, and while listening to certain songs, she vocalizes in her own special way.” The parents of Nicky Lesniak wrote, “To think that other people know of our son and wrote a one of a kind song makes us feel comforted and not so alone.” The mother of Dominic Ayala explained how her son’s personalized song made him grin from ear to ear. “What great natural medicine of love for a child to hear and sing along,” she wrote. 

Songs of Love’s success is evident in media coverage including EXTRA, CBS News, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Dateline, NBC News NY, ABC World News, BBC, CBS Early Show, Hallmark Heroes with Regis Philbin, NY Times, People magazine, and USA Today. In 2001, Britney Spears attended a special performance at her Massachusetts camp, where her campers wrote, recorded, and performed a Song of Love for a sick child.
Songs of Love engaged thousands of Black Eyed Peas fans at their concert to mark the 10,000th recording. Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath and 15,000 Mets fans recorded the 12,000th song at Shea Stadium. For their 20,000th song, Jason Mraz recorded “Love Is All Around.” Other celebrities 
included Billy Joel, Nancy Sinatra, and Jamie Lynn-Sigler.

Most recently, Songs of Love developed a Bitcoin page on their website. Bitcoin is the first form of currency which uses cryptography to control its creation and management. “The Songs of Love Foundation is proud to be the first nationally recognized 501(c)(3) to accept donations of Bitcoins, which is the currency of the future,” stated Beltzer.

Beltzer explained his vision for the future. “We want our organization to grow, so we can reach out to as many children as we can, to help alleviate their stress, fear, and pain through our medicine of music. Now we are producing songs for 1,000 children annually, but before the economy crashed, we were helping 3,000 children annually.” Beltzer established a goal of assisting another 1,000 children with their “Song of Love.”  
Songs of Love has a wish list of artists they hope to collaborate with. “It would be fantastic to have American Idol’s Adam Lambert work with us,” said Beltzer, referring to Lambert’s multi-octave range, charismatic performances, and congenial nature. “His stardom would bring greater awareness and funding for our charity to help more children,” he added. Lambert has a history of fundraising for charitable causes such as classroom supplies through, Red Cross, The Trevor Project, and Charity:Water.

Beltzer also visualizes turning Forest Hills’ MacDonald Park into a live recording studio through their program, “Raising Funds, Raising Voices.” He stated, “We would teach our audience a song over a pre-existing track and record their voices. I would like to invite all businesses, politicians, and the public, since it would be wonderful to have the whole community behind our cause. Let’s cover Forest Hills with a blanket of healing melodies.”

Last February, Songs of Love raised $10,000 at the Jackie Greene Band Charity Concert Series, which was held at MexiCali Live in Teaneck, NJ. Also in February, “An Evening With Ben Taylor” took stage at Symphony Space in Manhattan. Ben Taylor, the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon wrote and recorded a Song of Love for 8 year-old Greta Halton, who has a rare disease. Beltzer then explained a success story. “We showed a video of 8 year-old Danielle Duggan in Central Park in 2004, as 400 park-goers sang along with her pre-recorded Song of Love. At that time, she had stage 4 cancer. After showing the video, I proudly introduced a very healthy 18 year-old, Danielle, who stepped out on stage to say a few words.”

The public can anticipate more fundraisers. The 15th Annual Swing And Sing Golf Outing will take place on September 16th in Wayne, NJ, and another golf outing will follow in October. Songs of Love is also offering sponsorship opportunities. On November 2nd, Lynn Hoffman of A&E Private Sessions will host a benefit concert, “An Evening With Blues Traveler” at Manhattan’s City Winery.

To help a sick child, the public can donate to Songs of Love and purchase event tickets by visiting The public can also call 1-800-960-SONG or “Like” their Facebook page,