Skip to main content
Sarasota Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018 4 years ago

Music Heals Us hits the right notes

Andrew Lakey was diagnosed with Astrocytoma when he was 9. Now, cancer-free, he is giving back through the program he founded in 2016.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

Andrew Lakey knows how important it is to have something to look forward to when undergoing chemotherapy.

When he was 9, Lakey was diagnosed with astrocytoma.

“It’s a slow-growing tumor that is generally not cancerous, but because of the fact that he [the surgeon] could not remove it when they considered it a cancerous tumor, they had to do chemo on it to make sure it does not grow,” he said.

For a year and a half, every Wednesday, Lakey would do drip chemotherapy for six to seven hours.

Andrew Lakey performs at a fundraising event for Music Heals Us on Jan. 26.

The tumor has not grown in six years, so Lakey is considered cancer-free. However, doctors can’t tell if the tumor is cancerous, they can only monitor its growth. For 10 years, he will have regular checkups.

Lakey learned that there are two main ways cancer patients react — get it out of their lives and never think about it again or get inspired by the fact that they were able to conquer the feat and want to help others.

Lakey falls into the second category. To combat negativity, Lakey started

Music Heals Us, a program that raises money to provide ukuleles to kids going through cancer treatments. Lakey thought of music because it’s something people don’t think about spending money on to help kids going through treatment. Instead, people tend to spend money on video games, he said.

“One thing that people don’t realize is how important it is to have some positive distractions when you’re going through that time,” he said.

Once a week during his treatments, Lakey’s pastor would come to his house and teach him magic tricks. It was something Lakey could look forward to each week.

“It took an hour out of his day, and he did that rather than some people who just distance themselves from kids who are battling cancer. But he took the time to make me feel like I mattered, which I appreciated,” Lakey said.

So, now he’s paying it forward.

Since starting Music Heals Us in 2016, Lakey has given out 56 ukuleles. Ukuleles, on average, cost $45. Music Heals Us is an outreach program of Glen Schubert’s nonprofit Instruments of Change.

Lakey said the ukuleles are inexpensive and transportable. It’s an easy item to pack or bring in the car when going to chemo treatments, and they are slightly easier to learn than other instruments.

“One thing that people don’t realize is how important it is to have some positive distractions when you’re going through that time."

“The whole goal was to have an instrument that kids could get excited about playing instead of stressed about playing,” he said.

Sometimes Lakey visits kids at hospitals and teaches them how to play, but he has also posted tutorial videos on the Music Heals Us website that are password-locked so only kids who have his ukuleles and are undergoing treatment can access them.

Lakey didn’t start playing the ukulele until after his cancer treatment. He played the piano. However he said music has become more important in his life over the past five years as he has become inspired by it.

“When you’re going post-cancer, you’re not physically at risk anymore, but you still have a lot of mental challenges, and ukulele was a way for me to express myself and distract myself from thoughts I was having at the time,” he said.

For those interested in sponsoring a kid or looking for more information, visit

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

I’m Katie. I’m the Longboat Observer community editor, which means I cover all people, places and things pertaining to Longboat Key. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 364.

See All Articles by Katie

Related Stories