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Author Archive for lhyland

Time Warner Cable News – “Symphony of Soul Heals with Music”




Victoria Maranan of Time Warner Cable News interviews Symphony of Soul Founder Leslie Hyland Rodgers on site at Brookdale at Westlake Hills.

Swimming in Sapphires! Purchase Jewels and Benefit Symphony of Soul!

In the month of September, purchase jewelry from Copeland Jewelers and proceeds will benefit Symphony of Soul!



Swimming in Sapphires with Copeland Jewelers!

Symphony of Soul in the Amazon Jungle


Symphony of Soul in the Amazon Jungle (downloadable PDF)

Striking a Chord with Cancer Patients

Thank you to the wonderful Pam LeBlanc of the Austin American-Statesman for writing such a wonderful article on Symphony of Soul musician Margaret Slovak!

Striking a chord with cancer patients

That musician was Margaret Slovak, a classically influenced jazz guitarist who has played around the world.

“Her music is so soothing,” my dad, Ed Coleman, tells me now, as I sit with him while he gets another infusion. “It’s not intrusive; it doesn’t dominate. The music transports you away — it reaches out and really touches me.”

Some patients doze while Slovak plays; others talk quietly with family and friends. For my dad and his wife, the music softens the anxiety that surrounds this new reality of life.

“I just remember looking up and hearing a guitar and thinking, ‘Wow, this is really a warm, soothing place,’” my dad’s wife, Diane Coleman, says. “The music is incredibly calming, but also it’s alive and being performed by somebody who is giving us a gift.”

Slovak started playing for patients nearly 20 years ago in Portland, Ore. She’d been performing in clubs and touring as a solo artist and as part of a quartet, but sometimes she felt like she wasn’t connecting with audiences in noisy venues. She began volunteering weekly at a hospice facility in addition to performing concerts.

Then, when her mother became ill in 1999, she brought her guitar into the intensive care unit and played for her there. “It seemed like it really calmed her down,” Slovak says. “With all the machines, I felt so helpless; I felt like all I could do was play for her.”

She realized other patients could benefit and began volunteering in the hospital’s oncology and critical care units, too.

In 2003, Slovak became a patient herself when the car she was driving was struck by another vehicle, injuring her right hand, arm and shoulder. Since then, she’s undergone six surgeries to repair nerve damage and still doesn’t have full use of her fingers. She continued to play guitar but modified her style, using a pick instead of plucking strings individually and slowing down her music.

Self-conscious about her ability to perform, she quit touring publicly. She knew, though, she could still touch lives by playing for patients. Her own experience, she says, has made her more empathetic, and the patients give her a reason to play when she might have quit. “I try to make up for my limitations by playing with heart,” she says.

When Slovak moved to Austin in 2012, she joined the nonprofit group Symphony of Soul, which hires musicians to perform for patients in health care settings. She also plays with Swan Songs, which provides music for people drawing near the end of their lives.

Leslie Hyland-Rodgers, an Austin singer, actress and artist, founded Symphony of Soul 14 years ago, when her own mother had cancer. “She asked me to sing to her to help her relax,” Hyland-Rodgers says. “When I did that I turned around and saw that the other cancer patients in the ward had gotten up out of there beds and were gathered, listening.”

Besides providing therapeutic music for people at 34 different care centers around Austin, Symphony of Soul provides needed income for musicians, many of whom live at the poverty level, Hyland-Rodgers says. The group works with more than 100 musicians who give more than 200 performances a year. Still, it doesn’t have the funding to keep up with demand from care facilities.

Slovak’s performances at Texas Oncology aren’t part of Symphony for Soul’s work, but the guitarist missed playing for oncology patients and started playing there as a volunteer last October. She plays some of her own compositions — she has three CDs to her name — along with jazz standards.

“I know when they’re going through chemo it’s scary, it’s uncomfortable,” she says. “I just try to offer them calming music that will help them relax, offer them some peace.”

For my father, it brushes away a little bit of the stress of not knowing what happens next.

Austin Woman Magazine – April 2013

Thank you to Austin Woman Magazine for writing about Symphony of Soul!


Dedicated to uplifting the spirits of people in challenging circumstances, Symphony of Soul brings “musical medicine” to Austin’s Mercury Hall.

By Jean Yoo, Photos by Brenda Ladd Photography

3-300x198Symphony of Soul hosts its annual Gospel Brunch at Austin’s Mercury Hall on April 14. The brunch includes performances by the legendary American jazz and R&B singer Donna Hightower and the Faithful Gospel Singers, a silent auction featuring round trip tickets to New Orleans or a boat ride on Lake Austin, and delectable bites such as peach ginger French toast casserole. The event aims to benefit the local musicians in the organization as well as raise support and awareness of their service.Symphony of Soul is a nonprofit organization in Austin that brings “musical medicine” to people in need. Founder Leslie Hyland-Rodgers says the organization is committed to serving people who are facing challenging circumstances, while supporting local musicians at the same time.

“People don’t realize that many central Texas musicians are living near the poverty level,” she says. “We’re committed to serving those musicians.” The artists in Symphony of Soul have performed at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, homeless shelters and many more.

12-300x198The story of how Hyland-Rodgers founded the organization is very personal. In 2000, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and was being treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. When Hyland-Rodgers visited, her mother asked her to sing to calm her nerves. When Hyland-Rodgers began singing, the nurses came by and left the door open to let other patients enjoy the music as well. Soon, she had a group of audiences who had fallen in love with her soothing melodies and words.

“That’s when the light bulb went off, and I realized this was the kind of work I wanted to do in my life,” she says. “I wanted to help people who were afraid, lonely and anxious.”
Hyland-Rodgers says the organization gives 95 percent of the payment to the musicians. But she says not every musician is right for the roster; they have to be personable and know how to connect with the audience. “It requires a lot of energy and a heart the size of Texas,” she says.

The musicians also benefit from the experience. Hyland-Rodgers says many musicians walk away feeling that their music matters and makes a difference in people’s lives.

“It’s very important for me to keep this mission going, for my mom and for the musicians,” she says. “And we are committed to continuing to reach as many people as possible.”

To show support for local musicians at Symphony of Soul and their mission, purchase your ticket to attend the Gospel Brunch on April 14. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at symphonyofsoul.org. For information, visit the website or contact Leslie Hyland-Rodgers at 512.699.9298.

A Cup of Joe for Symphony of Soul!

A cup of Joe for Symphony of Soul!  We’ve teamed up with Snoball, a giving platform that supports “micro donations” while also tying in those donations to your favorite sports, entertainment or some aspect of your daily routine.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Austin’s premier café with seven locations, sells an average of 400 lattes a month. For the month of September, pledge 5¢ for every latte sold, or cap your cup of Joe (donation) at your maximum amount.

We’re kicking off this Snoball in true Symphony of Soul style…join us Friday, August 31st from 6-8p at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf located at 221 S. Lamar Blvd. Austin musicians Haydn Vitera will play from 6-7p and Austin legend, Van Wilks and Josh Smith will play from 7-8pm.There is no cover to attend the event!

To join in the snoball and make your donations please visit this snoball page

Pledge your donation for lattes sold by Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in September. Visit http://goo.gl/oDkkf for details.

Symphony of Soul mourns the passing of Judy Greene

Symphony of Soul mourns the passing of Judy Greene, the beloved mother of the organization’s founder Leslie Hyland Rodgers.  Judy was the inspiration for Symphony of Soul and her beautiful legacy of love and compassion will live on through the organization forever.

Obituary for Judy Greene

“Life & Style” in The Austin American-Statesman

Michael Barnes acknowledges the Symphony of Soul Swingin’ in the Stars Soiree in the “Life & Style” section of the Austin American-Statesman, February 2012.


Michael Barnes of the Austin American Statesman comments on the Swingin’ in the Stars Soiree

Symphony of Soul Swingin’ in the Stars mentioned by Michael Barnes in Austin 360.

Our Symphony of Soul Swingin’ in the Stars Soiree was a swingin’ success!!!

Dear Friends,

Our Symphony of Soul Swingin’ in the Stars Soiree was a swingin’ success!!!!! Sleek. Sexy. Intimate. Romantic. Simply stated, it was the perfect precursor to Valentine’s Day.

Swingin' in the Stars Soiree 2012

View from The Austonian

On a crisp Thursday evening, February 9, 2012, our stylish guests gathered on the posh 55th floor of The Austonian and admired the sparkling 360 degree view of the city. It was only because of the kindness of our dear friend Emily Moreland that we were able to host our event at The Austonian, one of the most sought-after venues in Austin.

The Ambler Family Foundation lovingly donated beautiful bouquets of pink, red and lavender roses that perfumed the air, while votive candles emanated a romantic glow to the already stunning setting. The soulfully sexy jazz of The Russell K Shores project wowed the guests with every wail of the saxophone and slap of the bass. People couldn’t help swaying and dancing to the sultry tunes.

Swingin' in the Stars Soiree 2012At a certain point, the band accompanied yours truly while I sang a few torch songs from the 30‘s and 40‘s. When the band took a well-deserved break, the ever-charming men of the Medallion Quartet wooed the guests with their beautiful a cappella renditions of tender love songs. I couldn’t help but notice how so many couples held each other just a little bit closer a they listened to the beautiful singing voices of the four men. And, let’s face it, I loved being serenaded by the guys! What girl wouldn’t?

Amidst mixing and mingling and hugs and laughter, there were oohs and aahs of delight as our guests tasted the marvelous food prepared by Chef David Bull of Congress Restaurant. Toasts abounded as everyone sipped the sweet and splendid vodka cocktails generously provided by Dripping Springs Vodka.

Swingin' in the Stars Soiree 2012I was tickled to see how playfully competitive our guests became as they purchased more and more tickets in hopes of winning the Sir Elton John Extravaganza Raffle. For $50 a ticket, the raffle provided roundtrip airfare for two people to Las Vegas, two night’s stay in the five star Bellagio Hotel, two tickets to see Elton John in concert, and two backstage passes. We thank our wonderful friend and Advisory Board member Bill Ham for arranging that package on our behalf. Congratulations to the raffle winner Christopher Hill!

There were squeals of delight as the women tried on the exquisite jewelry imported by my dear childhood friend Kendall Wilson of San Miguel Treasures. Kendall kindly donated a generous percentage of the purchases to Symphony of Soul at the end of the evening. “Leslie, look what I just bought!” my friends would giggle as they rushed up to me throughout the evening, proudly modeling their sparkly purchases.

It is because of friends like the wonderful Michael Barnes of The Austin American Statesman, that word got out about our event and we sold out. Thank you, Michael! And speaking of promotion, thank you to our sweet friend Sherry Scott for designing such beautiful invitations, brochures and the ongoing media presentation of Symphony of Soul in action that flashed so stylishly on the walls of The Austonian.

Our guests felt like fashion models as they posed for the renowned photographer Brenda Ladd, our lovely friend and Advisory Board member. Thank you, Brenda, for donating your fantastic photography skills to capturing our event on camera.

We could never have pulled off such a lovely event without Davis & Wilkerson, US Mexico Consulting, and Catalyst Consulting, The Ambler Family Foundation, Chef David Bull and Scott Walker of Congress Restaurant, Emily Moreland of Moreland Properties, The Austonian, Lauren Kelleher and Dripping Springs Vodka, our stellar volunteers Debbie Murphy, Monika Seiders and Sherry Scott, Kendall Wilson, my beloved husband and board member Dr. George Rodgers, as well as our other board members Bill Ham, Brenda Ladd, Tommy Cowan, Jos DenHartog, Terry Heller and Tamra Swindoll. You have blessed me and the organization with your loving hearts and generosity. Thank you for giving the Symphony of Soul family such a wonderful celebration of friendship!

With blessings,

Leslie Hyland Rodgers