Encore Creativity for Older Adults is launching its second Sentimental Journey Singers (SJS) program for individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease at Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda. SJS, which started in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2019, offers adults with memory impairments a space to socialize while practicing and performing a variety of songs.
“Alzheimer’s is a very lonely disease. It’s usually you and your caregiver so when these singers come out every week, the social interaction means a lot to them,” said Jeanne Kelly, the founder and artistic director of Encore, in a recent press release.
Encore, an Annapolis-based nonprofit, is the nation’s largest choral program for singers ages 55 and older and features over 20 programs with 1,250 singers in the DMV and New York City area.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies have shown that singing and listening to music can help reduce agitation and stress. Music can also have cognitive benefits for people with memory impairments. Familiar songs can evoke memories from childhood and help people connect with their loved ones or caregivers even without verbal communication.
A 15-week program, SJS will meet weekly starting Sept. 13. Conductor Dr. Mary Ann East and board-certified music therapist Rachel Thompson will lead participants and their care partners in classic holiday tunes in three-part harmony, including “Happy Together” and “Route 66.” The program will culminate in a free concert for family and friends in December.
“The experience will offer teamwork, confidence, a lot of fun and incredible joy,” said Kelly.
Tuition is $190 ($25 for care partners) and includes sheet music and a rehearsal CD. Participants can register by emailing [email protected] or calling Encore at 301-261-5747. Auditions are not required.