16-Year-Old Brings Beautiful Music to Cancer Survivors

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Regan Gallager, 16, performs for patients at Renown on National Cancer Survivors Day June 5.

Regan Gallagher, a 16-year-old high school student and harpist, finds pleasure in visiting patients and loved ones at the Renown Institute for Cancer and providing music to those affected by cancer.

At age 5, Regan Gallagher told her parents she wanted to play the harp – an exceptional goal for a little girl. At 16 and now an accomplished musician, she says one of her more rewarding performances is playing for cancer survivors at Renown on National Cancer Survivors Day June 5. 

Gallagher sits behind a harp that towers taller than her. At age 11, she started playing in coffee shops to overcome initial fears of playing in public. Today, her dream is to be a harpist in the Disney Studio Orchestra.

Watching her perform is mesmerizing and transforming – it’s simply hard to fathom how good she is until you hear the precise and calm music resonating through the halls of the hospital.

Just returning from playing at Carnegie Hall in New York, Gallagher happily accepted the offer to play harp music for cancer patients at the Renown Institute for Cancer. Part of the Healing Arts Program, Renown brings the healing power of the arts to patients and visitors.

When asking her to return and play for a second year during National Cancer Survivors Day, we got to know Gallagher’s emotional connection to playing for cancer survivors.

“I enjoy visiting patients and making them smile,” Gallagher says. “Being the second year of playing harp for survivors, I’m happy they think of me. Each time I’ve performed, I’ve thought of my two grandparents who are cancer survivors.”

Gallagher learned about cancer at the young age of 6  when her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having a grandmother who is a 10-year survivor, and a grandfather who was treated for cancer not long ago, brings even deeper meaning for Gallagher on National Cancer Survivors Day. Thankfully, both grandparents are alive today.

Gallagher might not realize how much her music means to patients and loved ones affected by cancer, but it’s true. As soon as she settled into her seat and started strumming on the in-patient cancer floor, doors opened and patients and loved ones started walking around, taking a moment to listen to music as a method of therapy. 

You can watch Gallagher by catching one of the Reno Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra annual performances at Renown Health as part of their Healing Arts series, and fall and spring concerts at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.