September 22, 2003

Reaching Out Through Music

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Music has the innate power to enchant and soothe. Recognizing this fact, Jessica Schiffman ’05 formed Therapy Through Music, in an effort to spread the power of music to nursing homes and hospices in the greater Ithaca area.

The club, in its second semester of operation, performed at the Reconstruction Home twice last semester and is planning several more concerts for this semester.

The club members always receive a warm reception, “[we] went from room to room, and the residents noticed simply one note” Schiffman said. Furthermore, the music allows for patients to interact with those outside of their community.

This semester, Schiffman plans on increasing the number of concerts the group performs. She cited that there are five nursing homes and one hospice in the Ithaca area, and she would like to play every other week while alternating locations.

Anne Jones ’04, music coordinator, believes strongly in the club’s mission. “I would look around the room and see patients with tears in their eyes,” she said.

Due to its success last semester, the club has acquired additional sheet music to form a catalogue for participating musicians. Also, they purchased simple instruments such as tambourines and bells in an effort to “incorporate activity, as small as it may be,” according to Jones. Often the group will arrive at a nursing home with a set list of music, but will then field requests from the patients. “They’re usually fans of classical and big band,” she said.

Student response to the club has been quite overwhelming. Kevin Wong ’04 was “looking to find a group to perform music for fun and to serve the community.” Schiffman and Jones both emphasized the genuine student interest, explaining that one concert last year included almost 15 songs. “It was almost too overwhelming for the patients,” Schiffman said.

In addition to the concerts, the officers hope to expand the club throughout the year. “I have a vision for club members to build relationships with the patients,” Schiffman said. Additionally, she has aspirations for the club to travel to New York City. There they could play for a more urban audience, assisting in “the formation to alliances,” according to Schiffman.

Schiffman began playing music to clinically ill patients during her senior year of high school, “It was an outlet for me; I was away from home and missed my family.”

Realizing an absence in programing at Cornell, she started the club last semester and received grant money from the Community Programing Board and S.A.F.C. funds.

Therapy Through Music meets most Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in Lincoln Hall 117, and encourages all singers and musicians to attend.

Therapy Through Music differs from music therapy, a practice in which trained instructors rehabilitate patients by teaching them to play instruments.

Archived article by Steve Angelini