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The Pacific Symphony to Collaborate on New Projects with Age Well Senior Services, Orange County Rescue Mission and The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The Pacific Symphony to Collaborate on New Projects with Age Well Senior Services, Orange County Rescue Mission and The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Pacific Symphony has embraced the power music has on health and wellness by collaborating on new projects with three community partners, all members of Heartstrings (see end of release for more on this): Age Well Senior Services, Orange County Rescue Mission and The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Inspired by recent scientific research and studies offering evidence that music can have a profound impact on a person's health in numerous ways, the Symphony recently launched two multi-week pilot programs, with one more taking place this fall. Research has shown that music improves the quality of life in individuals (infants to senior citizens) by encouraging social bonds, recalling positive memories and being an outlet for emotional expression, among many other benefits. The Symphony's pilot programs have received support from the William and Nancy Thompson Family Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. For more information on these programs and "Heartstrings," contact Symphony Vice President of Education and Community Engagement Pam Blaine at (714) 876-2360 or pblaine@pacificsymphony.org.

Growing medical research on the tangible effects of music on the brain and the body underline that: exposure to music alters the physical structure of the brain and shapes its development throughout a lifespan; musical engagement exercises attention networks and executive function, evokes emotional response and stimulates the central nervous system; music has the potential to "fix" the brain by providing an alternative entry point into a "broken" brain system to remediate impaired neural processes or neural connections. In short, providing opportunities for people to experience music in many settings can have a profound effect on their healthy development.

"Through various education and community engagement programs, we have witnessed how music can improve children's education, increase the quality of life for adults and create special bonds for families," says Blaine. "We now want to go even further with our efforts to contribute to the health of Orange County by working with community partners to increase the health and well-being of all people, regardless of their level of functioning. Our initial pilot programs have vastly exceeded our expectations and have made a profound impact on our participants. Our plans are to expand the programs in both breadth and depth in the coming year."

Pilot Program #1: Age Well Senior Services

For the initial pilot program, the Symphony partnered with Age Well Senior Services' Adult Day Health Care, a program that caters to aging adults who suffer from dementia, traumatic brain injury, developmental disabilities, depressive disorder and strokes. Knowing that so many lives and families are affected by these conditions, the Symphony was anxious to work with an organization where live musical experiences could be used as a tool for improving the participants' well-being by elevating moods and activating memories. For more on Age Well, visit: www.myagewell.org

As part of the program, Symphony musicians provided six performances to participants in the Adult Day Health Care program. The music was selected to maximize audience engagement with special consideration given to the specific needs of the participants in this setting. Prior to beginning the concert series, the musicians received training from the music therapist and program director on how music affects the participants and how best to engage them with the music. The musicians and center staff also consulted about the program for that day, before working together to create an environment that provided for an enjoyable and engaging musical experience for the participants. After the concert, the Symphony and staff met again to discuss the clients' reactions to the music and plan for the next performance.

Performances by the Symphony's flutist Cindy Ellis and harpist Michelle Temple allowed for a sophisticated level of engagement with the participants, and the musicians were able to respond to their reactions in real time. Typical behaviors of those with Alzheimer's disease such as wandering and social isolation were reduced. Participants became so focused and moved by the music that one participant who typically would sit with his head down became completely engaged-picking up a tambourine and playing along with the musicians' performance of "Habanera." The music therapist who works with this patient year-round said this was "a first for this gentleman."

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