Play it Back

Giving Young Adult Cancer Survivors the Opportunity to Rock

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The Play It Back Music program gives adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors the opportunity to express themselves and heal through the power of making music. Play It Back connects AYA cancer survivors with industry professionals to create songs, meet artists, and explore music. We work with all skill levels, from professional to beginner.




Play It Back Homies

The Play It Back Homies are all those awesome people who have supported the program with their attention, love, and creativity. They are all creative and soulful people who happen to be awesome at what they do and want to spread the joy of healing through making music with Play It Back.

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    Kenli Mattus

    Kenli Mattus has been a professional multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer for over 25 years. Originally from New Jersey, Kenli moved to New York to pursue a career as a recording artist after graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Kenli has toured across the country several times, appeared on national TV performing his songs with his band and written, produced and performed with numerous major label and independent artists. For years, Kenli took his free time to volunteer in many New York City hospitals where he would go room to room and perform songs for people battling cancer and other ailments. Over the last 20 years, Kenli has performed room to room for over 30,000 people. In 2000, when a young adult patient asked Kenli to help him record a song, it became the seeds of the Play It Back music program. After moving to LA in 2009, Kenli met Hilary Gan Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and together they dreamed of making Play It Back available to patients worldwide. Since 2018, Hilary and Teen Cancer America have helped Kenli grow Play It Back Songs to help many young people dealing with cancer. The benefits have been extraordinarily positive and healing. As of the beginning of 2020, Play It Back Songs has logged over 500 hours with young cancer patients and survivors, written over 50 songs and performed live many times. Kenli believes, “The song always heals,” in any context and it’s an obvious all-around win to facilitate the song-making process for young people dealing with the struggles of their cancer experience. When Kenli is not creating music he is spending time with his family or playing ice hockey.
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    Benny Blanco

    If you look at Benny’s resume (a crazy amount of huge hit songs by the ripe age of 30ish) you might think he’d be full of himself or at the very least, a diva. He is not either and we love him for that. Among the most real people on the planet, Benny gives his time to Play It Back artists again and again, hooking them up with inspiration and introducing them to amazing artists who also just happen to be his best buds. He has been a champion of the program for the last 8 years (even before it was an official thing). Short version: Everyone Loves Benny.

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    Jon Levine

    An incredible producer, songwriter and musician (monster of the piano), Jon produced the international hit “Fight Song” among many others. We love him for his self-deprecating humility and willingness to play piano with us, both on tracks (Letty Vasquez’s “Long Day”) and live (at the Play It Back Songs night in our house band). You basically don’t even need to teach him songs. Just start playing and he magically knows what to play. It’s fun to watch everyone’s jaws drop at his talent which he humbly lends to us.

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    Portugal. The Man

    Portugal. The Man is a group of amazingly passionate and talented people who happen to also be a great band. John and Zack reached out to our first official Play It Back artist Jian Mehta while Jian was fighting leukemia at UCLA Medical Center. They gave him loads of encouragement and had him as a special guest at The Shrine on their last tour. They changed Jian’s life with their honest praise and interest in his art. They also attended and performed their gigantic hit “Feel It Still” and Jian’s song “Dangerous Love” at the First Annual Play It Back Songs Night at Apogee Studio in 2019.

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    Apogee Electronics

    Apogee, like everyone else who believes in the Play It Back cause, happen to be amazing at what they do. A cutting-edge audio company based in Santa Monica led by Betty Bennett and Bob Clearmountain (the legendary mix engineer who works with Bruce and Mick (you know who) to name (drop) a few), Apogee opens up their amazing studio space to host our annual Play It Back concert event. They are all delightful and also have provided portable audio gear for our in-hospital room recording sessions. Everyone at Apogee helps us so much. We love to see them smile.

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    Marcus Eriksson

    Even our video editor is a rock star. He’s an amazing rock drummer (with tatted-up arms to prove it) but he’s even more widely known to be a video editor beyond compare (you know, he edits Super-Bowl commercials and cuts Queens of the Stone age videos…no big deal). He also produced and edited our Play It Back videos. He gets to the heart and soul of our program and helps get that message to sink in to people’s souls with his deft storytelling. He’s also Swedish, so that’s cool.

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    Shaun Jacobs

    Shawn’s talent is scary. He produces, he writes, he sings (incredibly), he arranges, he plays, he mixes, he performs. You don’t get that good by accident. You don’t win album of the year as an independent artist in South Africa by accident. We haven’t figured out how he does it all, but it likely has something to do with the combination of love of music and discipline. Shawn got involved in Play It Back after Sierra, a Play It Back artist, heard his songs and said, “I wanna work with HIM!” He said “yes” and the rest is history. He produced and co-wrote Sierra’s song “Never Come Back” and has performed it with her on several occasions. Shawn is music and it has inspired us all at Play It Back.

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    Nicky Blitz

    If you want enthusiasm, Nicky is your man. If you check out his songs, you’ll see someone who is somehow able to capture incredible positivity in a recording and companies like Apple and people like Post Malone agree; he makes dope music that makes you pay attention. He also made a really amazing writing-studio complex in Silverlake that has an open door to our Play It Back artists to come and create. We love it there. We love having Nicky to bounce song ideas off of. He’s a dude for sure. (That’s a very good thing)

Get Involved!

Want to be a Play It Back Artist?

If you or someone you know wants to become a Play It Back artist, please out the referral form. If you are under 18, you must have a guardian fill out an Authorization of Communication form.

Volunteer as a Producer

If you are in the industry and would like to make a difference reach out to Play it Back’s Music Producer, Kenli Mattus at


If you can’t volunteer or participate, no worries! Every dollar helps. Your donation goes straight to the organization and instantly helps.

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About Teen Cancer America

Our mission is to improve the experience, outcomes and survival of teens and young adults with cancer by providing facilities and programs designed especially for them in hospitals throughout the USA.

Teen Cancer America helps hospitals and healthcare professionals bridge the gap between pediatric and adult oncologoy care and aims to educate and support hospitals and outpatient facilities in the development of specialized units for teens and young adults. The units are a place just for teens and young adults where the cancer experience is understood and the importance of living life through the cancer journey is nourished.

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