UIndy Jazz Ensemble partners with Dementia Friends

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The Center for Aging and Community along with the Department of Music at UIndy have paired with Dementia Friends Indiana to host three Musical Memory Café events on campus. According to their website, Dementia Friends Indiana is an initiative aimed at spreading education and awareness around living with dementia. The Musical Memory Cafės are events held in front of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center where the UIndy Jazz ensemble played jazz music for people living with dementia and their caregivers. 

According to Project Assistant for Center of Aging & Community Becky Fee, the idea behind a musical memory café is for a welcoming environment to be created for people with dementia to gather around and socialize. Somewhere where outside noise is minimal or where the people living with dementia can be free of worry. Fee said the café’s are meant to be very relaxing wherever they are.

Photo by Gabe Eastridge Three saxophone players, Samantha Fletcher (left), Michael Parker (middle) and Kenvae Tarver (right) of the UIndy Jazz Ensemble all
play together in the first of three Musical Memory Cafés on Friday, Sept. 30th. They all performed for Dementia Friends Indiana.

There were three Musical Memory Cafés at UIndy on Sept. 29, Oct. 3 and Oct. 11. All concerts are held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on those dates.

Musical Memory Cafés at the university are made musically possible by the UIndy Jazz Ensemble. The jazz ensemble, which will also include the pep band during some performances, is responsible for performing the music. Assistant Professor of Music Mark O’Connor helps coordinate this event and said he happily endorses the cafés. 

“We’re absolutely glad to be a part of this program.” O’Connor said. “…It’s been our privilege to do our part in supporting what this organization does.”

 According to O’Connor, the music played during the events are usually jazz pieces chosen to fit the interest of the crowd. 

“I try to tailor it to the music from or at least styles that are associated with that more popular music and period of jazz,” O’Connor said.

According to Fee, there is a reason for playing a certain kind of music, particularly jazz music, because of the value it may provide for the people who attend. Depending on the situation, music can help listeners remember things they may not have, especially if they shared prior value with the music.

Photo by Gabe Eastridge Junior Mace Chope focuses on playing notes as the song intensifies. Professor of Music Mark O’Connor said that he tailors the music played at the cafés to match what the crowd may have typically listened to in their past and the popular music back then.

“…We encourage [the ensemble] to play older music because most of the people coming are older adults who are living with dementia…,” Fee said. “…Research has shown that music is something that your brain continues to remember and if you play music that they knew from the past, it’ll lighten up their day.”

Anyone could come to the events, as they are free to the public and require no forms to be filled out, according to Fee.

“I just want them to know that this opportunity is out there,” Fee said. “…Anyone: a student, faculty or anyone who knows someone who is living with dementia, I want them to know this is available, and they can call and find out when the next ones are and sign up for them. It’s not required that anybody signs up for them. But if they do, then we make sure we have enough food there.” 

This is just the second time these events are being held, courtesy of the Center for Aging & Community.

“This is really the first one since COVID [-19]…,” Fee said. “We’re hoping that every year we can just get the word out more and more and have more people come.”

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