New York orchestra takes up dementia challenge

New York orchestra takes up dementia challenge


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2018

Message received:

New York, NY (February 26, 2018) – Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with CaringKind to bring extraordinary musical experiences to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and their caregivers in Brooklyn and the Bronx. The pilot program, called “With Music in Mind,” marks the first time CaringKind’s connect2culture program – an initiative that helps cultural organizations develop programs for New York’s Alzheimer’s community – is bringing performing arts programming into the Bronx and Brooklyn. Formerly known as the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter, CaringKind has been New York City’s leading expert on Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving for more than 30 years.

“With Music in Mind,” funded by a generous $30,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, comprises two important components:  training and performance.  Experts from CaringKind will provide in-depth “Understanding Dementia” training designed specifically for Orpheus staff and musicians. Staff and musicians will be sensitized to the special needs of this community and provided with the tools needed to orient people with dementia and their caregivers to the musical experience.

The initiative will culminate in May 2018 with two special 90-minute performance events – one at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale on May 8th, and another at the Brooklyn Museum (a connect2culture partner) on May 15th.  “With Music in Mind” audiences will consist entirely of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their caregivers.  Each program will offer an intimate concert performed by Orpheus, followed by a conversation between the musicians and the audience, and concluding with a social tea.



  • Neuroscientist in Manchester says:

    Great initiative! So much can be done to help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with music. For those not familiar with the work of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, who sadly died in 2015, please watch the videos showing his pioneering work in using music to help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Some of these videos are amazing:
    and the complete film (with Spanish subtitles):

    There is also a great online platform, that was created primarily for learning music, that is now used a lot with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients all over the world (video):

  • Eric says:

    A fantastic program and initiative. Worth noting, they are not the only ones engaged in this kind of important work. Lincoln Center has been doing this kind of thing for several years now: All of it is important work, and worth getting out there to the public.

  • Larry says:

    Not to take anything away from this worthy project but I seem to recall reading about one or more other US orchestras having some kind of program for dementia patients.

  • Sharon says:

    I’m delighted that this is being done. However as a Bronx resident I know that Hebrew Home for the Aged is one of the best nursing homes in the country. I hope that they can play at other venues and also be an incentive for other music groups (even high school orchestras) to do the same. As a psychiatric nurse I know that music, especially live music, can be incredibly therapeutic and reach people when nothing else can.
    I urge every aspiring musician who wants a backup salaried job to consider studying music therapy. Ideally live music should be part of every activities program in any residential institution

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    One of my orchestras were doing this three years ago.

    Now please send us some of that Mellon money…

  • Sue Lyon says:

    I agree that using music to help people with dementia is a great idea. This program sounds great. On a personal level people can use meaningful music to spark memories by recording a person’s favorites in a LifeSongs book. They are good for reminiscing and starting conversations. Noice musical memory boost. Order them at