Music Mends Minds (MMM), a nonprofit that creates musical support groups for individuals with neurological disorders has expanded its musical offerings to include drum circles in addition to sing-alongs and bands.MMM is drumming up a new program to reach more seniors around the globe.
Rotary International and MMM have been working in partnership through the Global Initiative-“Music Mends Minds: Energize & Empower Through Music” to help bring music to seniors around the globe by creating a network to educate numbers of Rotary clubs on the best practices of helping those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s through music-making and socialization. We are so grateful to ADRAG to be partnering in this endeavor!
MMM’s Founder and Executive Director Carol Rosenstein is inviting volunteers throughout the Rotary world to support the power of music in changing brain chemistry for seniors who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, Carol was featured on the cover of the Rotary Magazine and the article on pages 28-35, calling all Rotarians to start a musical group.
See: Rotarv Magazine Mav 2022
“We’re looking for musical messengers to consider starting musical groups through their clubs at a grassroots level. Every one of our groups is unique, as long as music is the common thread we’re on board,” Rosenstein says.
MMM currently has a roster of 20 bands across the globe, including Rwanda and Canada, as well as a triweekly Zoom platform led by board-certified music therapists. But drum circles, in particular, have the potential to appeal to a wider audience because anyone can take part regardless of their previous musical experience.
Scientific studies have shown that the benefits of music are undeniable. Music is retained in the brain differently than other cognitive functions and can be accessed as a form of communication when other avenues are lost. The synchronized rhythms that are incorporated in drum circles stimulate 12 areas of the brain that are integral in motor skills, auditory and sequence processing, and working memory (Bengtsson et al, 2009).
Performing in a drum circle can also help improve physical gait, posture and mobility in Parkinson’s patients. The patterned nature of rhythm promotes voluntary movement by allowing muscles to time their movement to the beat of the rhythmic sounds (Nombela et al, 2013). Research also shows that music in general improves cognitive function, self-esteem, speech, attention, executive functioning, orientation and reduces anxiety, agitation and depression.
John Fitzgerald, who leads MMM’s Culver City Senior Center Drum Circle and has over 20 years of experience designing and facilitating drum circles and rhythm experiences, says playing music engages creativity, intuition and a sense of play.
“Rhythm, a fundamental part of music, is a constant in our lives; our hearts beat, we live in cycles of day and night, and we mark the seconds, minutes, hours, and days of our lives. Perhaps this is why drumming is so intuitive for people, and engages people of every description, background or challenge.
Music, and indeed rhythm, crosses every imaginable boundary; generational, language, cultural, to join us together in an experience of co-created joy and self expression. Caregivers and their loved ones, their children and siblings and friends are equals in the drum circle, in this joyful and engaging experience encouraging well-being and connection,” he said.
MMM makes it easy to start singalongs, drum circles, and bands with an online curriculum that can be tailored to fit specific and cultural community needs in Rotary clubs and districts. The program includes an educational video library, step-by-step instructions on how to start a band and regular virtual check-in sessions that offer guidance and problem-solving tips. Visit this link for more information: https://www.musicmendsminds.org/courses
Thanks again to ADRAG for this important partnership!
In April, Music Mends Minds hosted a free screening of the new documentary, Have You Heard About Greg? (HYHAG). HYHAG puts a human face on the most terrifying disease of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Greg O'Brien, an award-winning investigative reporter, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 59 and is committed to sharing his experience to get people talking about this disease. The film captures a frank, yet funny, heartfelt story of a disease that afflicts 50 million people worldwide and affects hundreds of millions of caretakers. After billions have been spent on research, it remains poorly understood. Beyond capturing Greg’s redemptive journey, the film hopes to make brain health a priority in daily life and to inspire both patients and caregivers to pay attention to early detection and preparation for Alzheimer’s and other brain afflictions.
The event also reunited singers from MMM’s flagship 5th Dementia band for the first time since the pandemic began. They were accompanied by the Brentwood Presbyterian Church Choir on songs such as Under the Boardwalk and Over the Rainbow.
HYAG was produced and directed by Steve Ecclesine. Greg’s and Steve’s mothers were friends and they both died of Alzheimer’s. Steve became a Hollywood producer and reconnected with Greg after a 50-year hiatus. Greg was the keynote speaker at a caregiver’s conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Steve drove out to shoot his speech and immediately knew he wanted to tell this powerful story about a real-life hero on a real-life hero’s journey.
For more information about Music Mends Minds