JFS Perspectives

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: The Power of Music

Lynn Nadel at the sing-a-longWhile Lynn Nadel was familiar with music’s powerful effects on people with dementia, she had never witnessed it firsthand. That is, until earlier this month when she led a Pete Seeger sing-along in the memory care unit at Frasier, a local retirement community.

As a Boulder JFS volunteer para-chaplain, Lynn has been leading monthly Shabbat services and other holiday celebrations at Frasier for nearly five years. She is also a singer-songwriter who grew up in New York singing Pete Seeger songs and even lived in his hometown for a short time. “He was a hero of mine and inspired me,” Lynn explains. “He loved the joy of people coming together to sing, so to honor his memory, I had the idea to lead a campfire-style sing-along.”

When Lynn approached Frasier about hosting this event, she wanted to have it in the assisted living section where she noticed fireplaces and thought it would be a cozy location for the sing-along she called “Around the Campfire.” However, the activities director thought it would be preferable to be in the living room of the memory care unit. “I went with her advice, and I think she was right,” Lynn says.

Lynn didn’t know what to expect since she hadn’t worked with people with dementia before. She was pleased when nine residents showed up. “Almost everyone understood what was happening,” she says. “One woman seemed disoriented and I couldn’t understand her speech. Then, when we started singing, her eyes brightened, she sang the words clearly, and was completely transformed! She was even speaking clearly after a short time. It was beautiful to see the power that music can have.”

Not only did Lynn sing songs with the residents, she also researched the history and meaning behind the songs and imparted some of that wisdom. Lynn shares, “I wanted to capture—and share—a part of American history that the songs express. It motivates me to learn when I know that I will be teaching it to someone else.” She uses this same approach with the services she leads as well. “When I moved to Boulder more than six years ago, I prayed for what I could do to learn, grow, and offer something to others. I found this volunteer opportunity with JFS, which has been a wonderful blessing to learn and meet new people.”

Lynn looks forward to learning more songs for future sing-alongs at Frasier. “I want to get to know the memory care residents and find more songs they may be familiar with.” She also wants to write more songs with and about people and is seeking local collaborators!

Thank you, Lynn, for your passion, creativity, and dedication! 

META DESCRIPTION: Lynn Nadel, a Boulder JFS volunteer para-chaplain, shares her experiences leading a Pete Seeger sing-a-long for residents in a Boulder retirement community's memory care unit.