As some of you may know, I (Sasha) spend Thursday afternoons with a different wonderful group of people leading and facilitating an intergenerational choir for people living with dementia, their care partners and local high school students. Although its certainly different to a room full of kids 5 years old and less there are some notable similarities and parallels!

  • Most importantly, and you won't be surprised, there's no pressure! We are there to enjoy the singing, the music and each other's company.
  • The songs I choose for us to sing each week are very carefully chosen, just as in a Music Together® lesson. I want for each person in every Music Together class to be reached wherever they are developmentally and that's no different in this intergenerational choir, called The Circle of Music. Just as kids take away from class what they are developmentally ready to take away and store the rest of the information, so do The Circle of Music participants who are living with dementia.
  • Which leads to a really important part of both Music Together classes and The Circle of Music, the atmosphere is informal but there's actually nothing casual about what we are doing, it's carefully crafted and thought through whether it's the spacing of when to use instruments in class so that the kids are stimulated but not over-stimulated or the singing of songs such as Singin' in the Rain or Let's Go Fly a Kite followed by a song with a round which is a new song for The Circle of Music singers. 
  • And, in both places, the participants come to know each other, enjoy each others company, and support one another; whether it be the latest technique for getting your baby or child to sleep through the night or wishing The Circle of Music students good luck in their exams or sharing an event of interest. Music is the common denominator lead in both settings of course, though we are supporting many other pieces of cognitive function in both Music Together classes and The Circle of Music. And, there's mobility through moving, drumming and stomping to name but a few!
  • Perhaps most significant (and fascinating for me), when you bring your child to a Great Lakes Music Together session your are helping them to develop their basic music competence and you continue that all week long by listening and playing with the music, The Circle of Music singers also talk of singing the songs from a session all week long. Eventually, around the age of 5, if you have continued to support that musical strand, your child will learn to sing in tune and move with rhythm. When the people living with dementia sing with us they are accessing their musical strand, something they can still do, even with all the other effects and complications of living with the dementia. And yet, if they haven't achieved basic music competence as a child, we wouldn't be able to reach them in The Circle of Music.

So, you should celebrate for sure that you are giving your child a gift which will keep on giving to them throughout their lives. The Circle of Music very recently received a $500 gift from The Grand River Hospital as part of their way of thanking Dr Gagan Sarkaria, their lead geriatician, for his multiple contributions to the board of The Grand River Hospital. Dr Sarkaria chose to ask for this gift to come to us because, in his words "I believe that activities such as music and integrating with people of all ages is very beneficial for people living with Alzheimer's and dementia. Thanks for all the great work with older adults in our community."

I absolutely love teaching Music Together and I know that Pam and Lorena love teaching all of you too and it's especially significant to realise that this work comes full circle to help and support people of all ages.