Tulsa Opera launches music therapy program at retirement communities

TULSA, Okla. — “Land that I love... stand beside her...and guide her...” If you are finishing that sentence, that’s the whole point of Songs by Heart.

The Tulsa Opera is launching the interactive music program to help senior citizens with memory issues.

Tulsa Opera provides a specially trained professional-level singer with live piano accompaniment to engage participants in group singing, clapping, dancing and conversation using familiar tunes like Oklahoma!, Take Me Out to the Ballgame and You Are My Sunshine.

“We are thrilled to add this important program that can improve the quality of life for members of Tulsa-area communities who struggle with memory issues,” says Ken McConnell, Tulsa Opera general director and chief executive officer. “Our pilot programs have generated a lot of enthusiasm for Songs by Heart. Given the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the growing senior population, this program is needed now more than ever.”

In Songs by Heart, the singer-leader uses therapeutic techniques such as mirroring, verbal and gestural prompting, making direct eye contact and holding hands with participants throughout the program.

Music therapy has been proven to help preserve memories and improve verbal and social skills.

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“Studies from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America show that music can impact moods, manage stress, stimulate positive social interactions and more,” says Dani Keil, Tulsa Opera director of outreach. “During the sessions, we see that embodied rhythm can aid with motor coordination. The residents express themselves through the music, and emotions and memories bubble to the surface. This program is so much more than just a sing-along.”

While the program is just now officially launching in Tulsa it has been around since 2015, starting in Chicago and expanding to memory care communities across the country.

“Songs by Heart is a great example of Tulsa Opera’s increasing focus to ensure that our company’s reach extends well beyond the performance stage into the fabric of the Tulsa-area community,” McConnell said.

Tulsa Opera’s Songs by Heart program is designed as 45-minute sessions ranging from once a week up to five days per week. Song selections are tailored to communities, with variety that spans musical theater, patriotic and folk tunes as well as jazz standards.

Memory-care communities interested in scheduling sessions can contact Dani Keil at dkeil@tulsaopera.com.

The Tulsa Opera says grants and donations are what keeps the program alive. If you’d like to donate, click here.





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