United has signed a partnership agreement with the Alberta Music Education Foundation (AMEF). Based in Edmonton, but with programs throughout the province, AMEF “provides funding and innovative ideas to Alberta’s music students and teachers.”
United’s first project with AMEF is the Alberta Heritage Music Project that brings students and older adults together to develop stories that are generated by memories linked to a particular song or piece of music from each of these two generations. The stories will then be turned into plays, poetry or music that reflects each of those stories.
“Music is an important part of the programming we provide to residents at United Active Living communities,” said Jill LaForty, music director at United. “One of the reasons this project made sense for us is that we’re already into inter-generational storytelling with our residents through the Life Writing project with Mount Royal University. This was an opportunity to build on that success using the additional elements of music and drama and to involve some residents who are passionate about music. We know that everyone has a story to tell and this seemed like a particularly creative opportunity to engage our residents give them the opportunity to work with some very gifted young people.”
The project was suggested by Rolf Bertsch, who is well known to residents in his role as music director and conductor of the Calgary Civic Symphony, and his teaching work at the Mount Royal University Conservatory. The project started in February and involves five students from Calgary’s Bishop Carroll High School and five residents of United’s Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities.
“The project connects the two generations through the sharing of musical memories,” said Joel Windsor, secretary, AMEF. “The older adults will share the music they grew up with, and compare that to what the students are listening to today. Those stories and memories from both generations will then be presented at performances in April at the two communities.”
The Heritage Music Project is part of an ongoing AMEF project that has been conducted in past years in Cochrane, Red Deer and Fort McMurray to provide an opportunity for music appreciation for all ages.
“This project is different from the other projects AMEF has done, ” said Jill. “Not only do the older adults share their stories, but the students do as well, and both generations will take part in the final performances. This mutual storytelling is something that one of the facilitators, Samantha Whelan, has brought to the project, and what’s interesting about the stories is that they sometimes bridge the two generations and contain common themes. Their life experiences overlap despite the passage of time.”
“Intergenerational learning used to happen in the home,” said Samantha Whelan Kotkas, who is co-facilitating the project with musician Aaron Young, who is adding all the music live. “That doesn’t happen much anymore so with this project, the two generations are coming together to tell their stories. Music helps trigger those stories. It’s fascinating to see how closely the stories told by the older adult and that of the student resonate together. That happened spontaneously and will be reflected on stage when the stories are told in April.”
“There is no distance between the generations,” said Samantha. “This project really demonstrates how similar we all are.”
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