The Healing Power of Music

Mavis Staples partners with Feist-Weiller Cancer Center


It's been said that Music is the voice of angels calling our hearts and souls. Cancer and sickle cell disease patients at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU Health Shreveport are hearing those voices and are testifying to the healing power of music.


Feist-Weiller Cancer Center is pleased to announce a new partnership with Grammy Award-Winning artist Mavis Staples and Bruce Iglauer, President of the contemporary blues label Alligator Records in Chicago. The idea sprung from Ron Nierman, a Licensed Professional Counselor and leader of three weekly support groups at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU Health Shreveport, in which members can express emotions they are reluctant to share with family and friends.

"In doing so, they create bonds with others who truly understand what they're going through. Many have a strong sense of faith and a belief that, while they entrust their medical care to the cancer center's physicians and staff, there is a Higher Power and a Higher Purpose at work behind the scenes," said Nierman.

So whether by chance or providential design, Nierman discovered “Have A Little Faith,” an album produced by Jim Tullio and Staples for Alligator Records in 2004. After hearing songs on the CD, including the title track “Have a Little Faith,” and others such as “God Is Not Sleeping,” “I Wanna Thank You” and “I Still Believe in You,” Nierman decided to contact Staples and Iglauer.

“Mavis has always been one of my favorite female vocalists and when I heard ’Have A Little Faith,’ I knew I had to share it with my support groups.

“The album is everything that defines Mavis: truthful, heartfelt, spiritual, soulful and inspiring. Every track knocked me out. I knew my group members would relate to the messages in each and every song.”

When “Have A Little Faith” was first released, Staples said, “The songs fit each other like a glove. These are the types of songs we [her family, The Staple Singers] sang down through the years: positive songs, informative songs, songs that help people through their lives.

“I listen to the CD and I get excited all over again because I’m telling some very positive and uplifting stories in these songs. That’s what I’ve always been about, being able to help someone along the way.”

Iglauer praised her music saying, “Mavis Staples’ voice is one of the best known and best loved sounds in American music, and Mavis is a marvelously talented musical icon.”

Moved by Nierman’s request to share the CD with his support group participants, Iglauer stepped up to the plate and within three weeks made arrangements to ship 60 copies of the CD to Shreveport. The deal was sealed when Nierman drove to hear Staples perform at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge February 24, 2011. On stage, Staples shared her excitement with the concertgoers that her music would be used for the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center support groups, which she described as “a blessed cause.”

Willie Stewart, a lung cancer survivor and a long-time member of the Friday Cancer Patient Support Group, said of “Have A Little Faith”:

"The whole CD is spiritual healing; it gives us strength in body and mind. Many of the songs have a special meaning to me. When I opened the door to the treatment room for my first round of chemotherapy, I saw nothing but bright light. It was my time to 'Step Into the Light.'

“There are times when I'm alone that I worry about how I’m doing and I start to think in a negative way -’There’s a Devil on the Loose.’ It was a great thing that Ron and Bruce wanted to do this for us. Every day I grow more certain that ’God Is Not Sleeping.’ I know I want to be there when someone new comes to join our group - ’Will the Circle Be Unbroken?’ I understand now that having cancer is not the end, only something we pass through, and we can’t let it stop us from living.”

If Staples’ goal is “to help someone along the way,” her mission has certainly been accomplished.

For more information, please contact Ron Nierman, MA, LPC, CGP at (318) 470-6180.