above: Peter Bush in WPLJ Studio NYC, 1984
Photographs: Venera Alexandrova; Family photos: contributed
Molly Norton spends a lot of her time enhancing the patient experience at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, one of the most unique psychiatric facilities in the nation for mental health and addiction.
But in her few moments of free time, she sits among mixer boards and microphones in Little House, a quaint building nestled within the 44 acres of this New Canaan institution, to broadcast the radio station she created—Silver Hill Radio.
Silver Hill Radio, an online station that plays mostly music aimed to target patients and staff at the facility. also dabbles in talk and meditation shows.
“Our patients submit playlists so we can put together the music they want to hear at the time they want to hear it, like during art therapy,” said Norton.
At any given moment, you will hear Fleetwood Mac’s Gypsy or Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey playing everywhere from the patient houses to the campus bus. “Music is magical in the way that it can get a group of people together to share what is meaningful,” says Norton. “There’s an enjoyment in just being together and listening to your favorite songs.”
It makes sense that Norton has a deep appreciation for radio considering she had a front-row seat listening to her father, legendary DJ Peter Bush, on the radio for her entire life. In fact, Norton was literally born on the radio as her father aired a live broadcast from the delivery room when Norton’s mom was giving birth.
“Growing up in New Canaan, I had a lot of friends who had dads who commuted to the city and worked long, intense hours,” she explains. “With my dad in radio, his hours were flexible. He was able to be present for so much of my upbringing and even when he wasn’t, I could turn on the radio and hear him.”
So it made sense that when Norton was living in Boston in her twenties, working with people with severe mental illness, she thought of starting her first radio station.
“I remember driving on I-93 and calling my dad and saying, ‘Dad, I have this crazy idea,’” she said. At that time, she was working with people who had developed severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, right at the moment in their life they would have been starting a career. So, she had a lightbulb moment of giving them a radio show as a creative outlet.
“I told her that if she puts her mind to it, she can do anything,” says Bush.
“That was always my dad,” she said. “He says things to make me feel grandiose and I took that to heart and just went for it, and it was successful.”
She thought of doing it again at Silver Hill with the intention of “bringing our little campus together, and getting our staff and patients involved in something that is fun and connects us.”
The station is evolving to include trivia, staff segments, and even interviews with well-known figures, like Melissa Bernstein of Melissa & Doug.
“I’d love to bring in more high-profile individuals in recovery to speak openly about their experience,” Norton says. “It’s important that people see that even those who seemingly have the best lives ever are still affected by mental illness.”
While the station is only two years old, Norton and Bush–along with David Foarde–a local digital-artist-turned-volunteer–have plans to get the community involved and expand its small but mighty impact.
“I’ve seen patients who suffer from serious depression and difficult life circumstances laughing, singing and dancing together because we played their favorite song,” said Norton. “The impact is not about raising money, it’s about bringing joy to those suffering and fun into a career that is otherwise emotionally taxing. This station makes Silver Hill a better place.”
“Everyone recognizes what a really credible place this hospital is and how many lives they’ve changed,” Bush adds. “This is a great radio station that plays great music, available to the public. I say this in jest from time to time, but I guess I really mean it: My baby is going to change the world.”