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Utah Symphony and Opera gives small performance to Alzheimer patients

By Carole Mikita | Posted - May 16th, 2013 @ 8:11am


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Symphony and Utah Opera musicians regularly perform in Abravanel Hall and the Capitol Theatre, but for the month of May they're taking their music on the road to help raise awareness of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Musicians from the groups are volunteering their time and talents by performing at 10 assisted living facilities along the Wasatch Front. May is Making Sense of Alzheimer's Month, and the members of the orchestra understand what music can do for people who struggle with the disease.

One of the stops on their tour was to Emeritus Assisted Living in Salt Lake City. A small quartet played for a dozen or so audience members, and it struck a chord with those who attended.

"Well, I'm not an expert on music, but I love it," said Hulda Parker Young, a resident and audience member.

USUO musicians were the first in the country to create such a program. For just a few minutes, these Salt Lake City residents can recapture memories and experience the kind of feelings beautiful music brings.

"People with Alzheimer's may not recall that they've been to a concert, but during the concert itself, they can have a fabulous musical experience as anybody," said Paula Fowler, education and community outreach director for USUO.


"People with Alzheimer's may not recall that they've been to a concert, but during the concert itself, they can have a fabulous musical experience as anybody."

For the musicians, it's more than just giving back to the community. Joel Gibbs, a violist with the group, said the performances and audience members hit close to home.

"One of my grandmothers has a little bit of dementia, a little bit of memory loss," he said. "So yes, I definitely see my parents and my grandparents in the faces of the people we're playing for."

In many cases, residents of facilities like Emeritus Assisted Living have an affinity for symphony, operas and other musical performances, but don't have the opportunity to attend showings regularly.

"Many of the residents have gone to the opera and gone to the symphony, and that was part of their life," said Jill Driesel, memory care program director at Emeritus Assisted Living. "So this is really exciting for them and it makes them feel part of the community."

USUO is offering free or discounted tickets for caregivers and families if they are able to bring Alzheimer's patients to Abravanel Hall or the Capitol Theatre for a performance in May.

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