The Power of Music as ServiceApril 30, 2019
by Ben Batchelder
When trying to decide on what I should do for my Eagle Project, I decided to look into working with Joy’s House through a recommendation from a close friend. This friend used to work at the American Alzheimer’s Association, and I had done some volunteer work with them in the past.
Last fall, I came to Pam’s Party, a Joy’s House event where I was able to meet with the people who run Joy’s House and really get a feel for Joy’s House’s culture.
I wanted to find a project where I could work with someone and really feel that I was making a difference to somebody’s life. When I visited Joy’s House, I saw how they were really helping people and that everyone there was passionate about Joy’s House’s mission.
I saw music being played at Pam’s Party, which gave me the idea that my project could involve music in some way. After doing some research, I saw just how powerful music can be in the lives of dementia patients.
For my project, I looked to bring some form of music therapy to the Guests at Joy’s House. I raised enough funds for 20 clip-on MP3 players, 20 headsets, and music for 20 playlists (each with 20-25 songs). I made playlists that covered a range of different eras and genres of music. We created a calming Beatles playlist, a Gospel playlist, a Classic Rock playlist, a Motown playlist, Blues, Jazz, Frank Sinatra, and many more.
These sets of MP3 players and headsets are now used at Joy’s House to help Guests either calm down or wake up and help the Guests enjoy their time at Joy’s House.
While working on this project, I learned a lot about the power of music and how it can affect the mind. Music has the power to access memories and calm someone down or wake them up. A person can be almost immobile or barely speak anymore, but music can empower them to dance or even sing, truly waking them up.
The documentary, Alive Inside, showed me how powerful music can be and helped inspire my project. (Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaB5Egej0TQ )
Just last week, we had a silent dance party for the Guests at Joy’s House. I was able to help several different guests put on their headsets, select their music, and watch them come to life. Many got up and danced, several sang, and “Doc” even shared his memory of seeing Frank Sinatra live at the Copacabana. A newer Guest had been struggling with anxiety every day she visited Joy’s House. She’d often ask over and over when her daughter was coming to pick her up. On this day, she danced and sang and smiled to Aretha Franklin and The Temptations and not once did she ask about when she could leave. The staff at Joy’s House couldn’t wait to tell her daughter how this day went. It was a joy-filled event.
I can’t wait to spend part of my summer break volunteering at Joy’s House. I’m excited for more dance parties.