Music is known to offer great benefits through providing joy, a means of self-expression, and an opportunity to connect with one’s community. These three things are often missing in the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. According to recent estimates from the CDC, 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, and this number will triple by 2050. Lincoln Center Moments, a pilot program that took place this spring, is designed to contribute to these important aspects of quality of life.
Building on outstanding work done being done at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accessibility at Lincoln Center sought to adapt a model for experiencing visual art to a performance-based setting. Collaborating with the Chamber Music Society and the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center created a two-concert program to bring the highest quality of chamber music to an intimate and supported setting. To ensure that participants had a chance to both experience live music and respond to it in a group setting, Lincoln Center Teaching Artists led arts-based workshops to explore the music through movement, poetry, discussion, music, and visual arts.
"I attended this magnificent program with a person in late middle stage Alzheimer's. She connected with the music instantly and remained engaged throughout the entire program. The joy this program brought her was priceless. . . . and lasted the entire day."
In advance of the program, CaringKind, our consulting and teaching partner, trained security, front-of-house, administrative, and teaching artist staff on the impact of the disease on the body and mind, communication techniques, and behavioral interventions. The Museum of Modern Art also provided training on teaching strategies to engage both the participant with dementia and their caregivers. The Chamber Music Society and New York Philharmonic selected works that were both familiar and musically varied to evoke responses in the participants. The Calidore String Quartet, in residency as members of CMS Two, performed Beethoven’s Quartet in A minor for Strings, Op. 132, which was written as a response to joy the conductor felt after recovering from a longstanding disease. "We treat all of our audiences and our performances with the same care in the preparation," violist Ryan Meehan shared. "It was just a joy to be able to share, especially such a sublime piece as Beethoven’s Opus 132, with this audience and we really felt an incredible energy coming from them that really fueled our inspiration and motivation as we played through this titanic work." The New York Philharmonic’s Hannah Choi and Nathan Vickery selected another great work in Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D Minor, and performed with Pallavi Mahidhara.
Lincoln Center Teaching Artist Ashley Renee Watkins described her aspirations for the program: "My hope is that it’s another point of access. This is a group of people, a sector of people that sometimes we forget about in the arts, I think. . . . it’s important pull every individual back into the arts and to give access to the arts to all members of our society."
When asked to comment on the program, participants said they enjoyed the talent and passion of the musicians, the warmth of the intimate setting, and the opportunity to talk with the artists. As one attendee said: "I attended this magnificent program with a person in late middle stage Alzheimer's. She connected with the music instantly and remained engaged throughout the entire program. The joy this program brought her was priceless. . . . and lasted the entire day."
Lincoln Center will continue this program next spring, expanding the type of music, workshops, and the performing partners to include other resident organizations on campus, and will explore the benefits of music through research based in both quality of life and medical measures.
Miranda Appelbaum is the Assistant Director of Accessibility and Guest Services at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. To learn more about Lincoln Center Accessibility’s initiatives, please contact [email protected] or 212-875-5374.