VocalEssence Vintage Voices Participants Find New Program ‘Energizing,’ ‘Inclusive,’ ‘Validating’ and ‘Beautiful’

A new VocalEssence program is working wonders for senior singers and their communities! Vintage Voices, which integrates the arts into the lives of older adults by creating choirs in assisted living communities and senior centers, has inspired older adults at Ecumen Seasons at Maplewood (shown above in their spring concert video), Sabathani Community Center Senior Center, and Open Circle at Heritage Park Senior Services Center.

Through 12 weeks of rehearsals, free tickets and transportation to a VocalEssence concert, and a final concert for family and friends, conductor Rob Graham, VocalEssence education manager and music librarian, and accompanist by John Jensen boost singer morale and foster bonding.

Feedback from those who participated, from choir members to activity directors, has been overwhelmingly positive and extremely encouraging.

One of our Sabathani Community Center Vintage Voices singers, Alberta Johnson, shared her experience in a Minnesota Women’s Press article, writing, “As I became more involved with VocalEssence Vintage Voices, I’ve learned that music can be as enjoyable with elders as it was in all of the other phases of my life.”

Choir members reported a variety of benefits:

  • “I just enjoyed the VocalEssence concert because of how perfect you were. Everyone walked in and seated together and when you walked and stood up, we all opened our music together at the same time. You knew that you were ready to be there. It was just beautiful!”
  • “Sometimes I think I can’t do it. But we get someone like (Rob and John) and we can do anything.”
  • “I couldn’t sing before so I was very reluctant to join but I was happy to be a part of it because I did learn some things, sometimes I lip-synced but I love music and I feel really encouraged and want to continue to take lessons because I want to sing.”
  • “The thing that was most interesting and challenging to me was learning how to read and sing the notes. I am usually singing all over the place so being taught to sing in one voice was kind of cool.”

The program had a positive effect on the whole community, activity directors found:

  • “Even the people who were not in the choir came to the concert and sat in the front row and cheered them on. There was a lot of bonding.”
  • “The biggest change was between independent residents and memory care. Not just on rehearsal days, on other program days when we bring them all together, the memory care person was accepted into the place. There was the acknowledgement of being in a group together.”
  • “I think it’s just a beautiful opportunity. … It’s a learning opportunity, but it’s also very therapeutic. Learning new skills, and specifically arts, expands the brain and fends off dementia.”
  • “Music is one of the biggest things seniors respond to. It doesn’t matter if they have memory loss; music brings memories to mind. You don’t have to be able to talk to enjoy it.”

This summer Rob has again been working with the Seasons Sunshine Singers at Ecumen Seasons at Maplewood; their concert on August 25 will be an exciting journey down Broadway featuring hits from the golden age of musical theater.

The VocalEssence Vintage Voices program continues in the fall at three sites: The Waters of Edina, Walker Methodist Highview Hills, and Augustana Open Circle of Apple Valley.