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Service Through Music Benefit Highlights the Power of Music and Memory

April 6, 2016

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We all enjoy music. From classic rock to pop and tejano to Texas country, music alters our mood, often reminding us of exactly where we were and how we felt in certain moments. Music can be therapeutic. Students in TLU’s Service Through Music (STM) organization understand the impact music can have on people, especially individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

On Sunday, April 10 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Jackson Park Student Activity Center, STM will host a benefit lunch supporting and raising awareness about their work with the Music and Memory program. The event will feature a catered BBQ lunch and live music from the Dirty River Dixie Band, as well as a bake sale and silent auction items. The benefit also provides an opportunity to learn more about how the program supports residents of Guadalupe Valley Nursing Home's Memory Unit and a chance to view clips from the inspiring documentary “Alive Inside: The Story Of Music And Memory.”

In the fall of 2012, Dan Cohen, executive director of Music and Memory, shared his documentary with the TLU community during a music symposium hosted by the TLU School of Music. That started a conversation among the students and turned into a campaign spearheaded by Service Through Music (STM)—an organization seeking to enrich the lives of others by incorporating musical performances and music technology into local nursing homes.

Through STM's own fundraising efforts, it has been able to partner with Guadalupe Valley Nursing Home in Seguin to equip their residents with 20 iPods, headphones, chargers, and iTunes gift cards through the new Seguin branch of Cohen’s Music & Memory program. Each resident of the memory unit, which focuses on patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, has his or her own iPod and a playlist of music featuring their personal favorites. This way, they can listen to music year-round without waiting for an outside group to come perform.

According to the Music & Memory website, nursing home residents in the program are happier and more social, their relationships among staff, residents and family deepen, everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment, and staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues. The organization also concludes there is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on psychotropic medications like Xanax, Ativan, and other antidepressants.

Junior music education major and STM Benefit Coordinator Andrea Moreno became involved with the organization as a freshman. She loves the community service aspect of the program and is moved by the way people are affected.

“The most rewarding part for me is the reaction we get when residents hear the music,” Moreno said. “It excites them. They know the music and absolutely love singing along. Their reactions and the idea that we’re spreading the power of music is the reason I am so committed to this group. Music is too powerful for it to be forgotten.”

While entry, lunch and entertainment at the benefit lunch are free, donations are strongly encouraged as they fund the purchase of music for nursing home residents and equipment maintenance.