Music Appreciation Program Returns with a Twist

United’s popular Music Appreciation program is back after a hiatus of almost five months due to COVID. But rather than an in-person program, Zoom was used to connect Jill LaForty, United’s music director, with residents at both Fish Creek and Garrison Green.

Jill LaForty with residents in a virtual music appreciation program
Jill LaForty with residents in a virtual music appreciation program

Jill set up the Music Appreciation program about five years ago to not only help residents rediscover the classics, but to delve below the surface of the music to give residents the context and meaning behind the composition of the timeless pieces.

“The residents frequently attended concerts and wanted more in-depth understanding behind the music, ” said Jill, in describing the origins of the program. “The beauty is that the program attracts residents who are familiar with the music, and those who aren’t. Everyone is  enjoying it because they are all seeking to expand their horizons.”

For the return of the Music Appreciation program, Jill heard from Maureen Miller, a Fish Creek resident who suggested a discussion around composers who had physical disabilities.

“What a fantastic presentation,” said Maureen. “I got the idea after attending an art studio workshop where the creative facilitator, Jeff Chan, spoke about artists who had various disabilities yet were able to produce masterpieces.  I left Jill’s music presentation  thinking about the human drive that allows talented people to go forward and accomplish great, extraordinary things. It is that drive plus the support of exceptional teachers who were willing to work with them to open new ways to get to where they needed to be.”

Residents in the Fish Creek theatre for the Music Appreciation program
Residents in the Fish Creek theatre for the Music Appreciation program

Jill found the topic particularly poignant. “The program was about musicians who had to find another way to play due to a disability. In a way, we also had to be creative to find an alternative way to bring the program – in fact almost all of our programs – to residents despite being affected by the COVID safety protocols.”

“I love being in the same room and engaging with residents during the program, and I stay afterwards to talk with them and get their reactions and suggestions. But this time we used Zoom and another piece of software that allowed me to interact with them from my home and have control over the Fish Creek theatre’s computer to play my video clips. It was a little complicated, but we wanted to make the program as dynamic as possible without me actually being in the same room with them. And we held two sessions to enable as many residents as possible to take part.”

Since COVID protocols were put into place, Jill and the creative facilitators at both communities have found innovative ways of bringing music to the residents. Students from the Mount Royal Conservatory have performed for residents via phone and Zoom. There have been several concerts outside of the buildings on Canada Day and during the Stampede, the art studios are open and programming is expanding daily.

Jill is also planning a series of virtual concerts beginning in August, which will run until musicians can come into our communities.

Mark DeJong (left) and friends perform jazz favourites for residents of Fish Creek
Mark DeJong (left) and friends perform jazz favourites in June for residents of Fish Creek

“The concerts will be held in real time, giving residents an opportunity to engage with the performers,” said Jill. “The first concert will be with two of Calgary’s top musicians Aaron Young and Denis Dufresne, who will play a mix of old standards and newer material that will connect with residents. Then in September, we’ll have Mark DeJong and Mark Limacher perform jazz classics.”

Those special performances, together with regular video programming in the theatre, and workshops starting up again in the art studios, bring a large variety of programs to residents at a time when getting out to performances isn’t yet possible.

“United has always had a commitment to lifelong learning. It’s encouraging to see the variety of programs growing every day,” said Jill.

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The restrictions on visiting mean that tours aren’t available right now, but don’t hesitate to talk with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange for a tour once we are able to do so. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help! 

To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.

Or, to find out more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.

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