Music therapist Christian Sjonnesen plays his guitar at The Gateby. The Rise Community Association donated the funds for eight-and-a-half months of music therapy sessions for residents.

Playing the gift of music

Music therapy brings everyone together in song at The Gateby

The music brought everyone together on a snowy morning at The Gateby.

A man caught the beat with his toes, one woman borrowed glasses to look up the words in the song book, another woman raised her voice in a clear soprano for a few bars then sat silently, remembering, perhaps some long ago Christmas concert in a one-room school.

Some of the people who made it possible, representatives of The Rise Community Association, which gave a donation for eight-and-a-half months of sessions with music therapist Christian Sjonnesen, joined in.

“We wanted to give something back to the community and we think this a great thing,” said Sharon Ertl.

Her husband, Ed Ertl, a retired pharmacist, said, “I have worked in care facilities and seen how much the residents enjoy music so I thought music therapy would be a good choice.”

Rick and Dody Putz, also of The Rise Community Association, came out for the introductory session as well.

“You can see it in people’s eyes how much they are enjoying it. Christian will be back Christmas Eve and the program will go on in the new year,” said Rick.

Sjonnesen asked the residents for their favourite seasonal music and it wasn’t long before the songs were ringing out in the brightly decorated room.

Gateby recreation therapist Marijon Florentinus-Schindel said music therapy is one of the best gifts residents could get.

“I think we’re very fortunate to have this. The sessions will tie in with our existing program themes and help people as they relive memories. For most people music is a very powerful medium that not only helps them access their memories but also to experience new concepts and ideas in an enjoyable way,” she said. “As Christian gets to know the people and their interests better, he will fit the sessions to the needs and goals of the individual participants.”

She said music is often used as a way to help new residents settle in with group sessions or one-on-one time and encourages residents to sing or play an instrument they might have some experience with.

“It’s amazing how many people here have music skills that they can enjoy themselves and share with others. We are really happy with this gift,” she said.

The resident birds added their trills to Let It Snow.

At the end of the session, Dody Putz was even more sure they had made the right decision to give the gift of music.

“The lady here beside me has been singing along so happily,” she said. “That really got a lump in my throat. We are happy to be part of this gift.”

Sjonnesen has been hired by family members to come in and do music with their loved ones and fellow residents and he said he is glad that the program can expand to other parts of The Gateby. He is just getting to know the up to 20 people who will take part.

“They want to be more engaged and involved and we will have more participatory sessions, maybe a percussion group if that’s what they want. This makes a difference to the quality of the residents’ lives and that’s what The Rise association wants.”


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