TAO has a percussion suitcase that can be checked out for use at TAO programs. TAO also has a Bose PA System that can be checked out as needed.
In addition to your instruments, a small PA is a great idea. Often our programs occur in dining rooms, which are right next to the kitchen, a source of noise and disruption. Overhead paging systems, oxygen tank signals, and other routine care needs create added noise and distraction. Also, as we age, it becomes more difficult for us to tune out background noise and focus on the sounds we are choosing to process. Amplification makes this task much easier for our clients.
We encourage all of our artists to consider every opportunity to involve your participants in the process of creating music. Have them sing, have them play, have them call requests and talk about their favorite music, etc. Shakers, wrist bells, tambourines and more elaborate percussion instruments have been used with great success. For programs that occur in the morning, particularly with seniors, some elements of stretching and movement can be incorporated into programs, as a way of encouraging clients to move. Look to the activities director for advice and buy-in on this.
Lyric sheets or song books also are helpful additions. For seniors, large type is best. If someone says ‘It’s no use; I can’t see,’ hopefully you can encourage them to sing along, with assistance from you. For young families in shelter, lyric sheets are a great way to encourage reading and literacy. The children are, in most cases, genuinely interested and eager to be involved.
The two most valuable considerations for having people join in with your music program:
Below are PDFs with compilation of popular songs for seniors. One includes the lyrics and chords for guitar. The other is a sample senior’s songbook, which only includes the lyrics. Please click on one or both to download the PDF.
Where there are tables, we suggest placing materials to share, such as song books or a variety of small percussion instruments on the tables. This allows residents choices of what to try and when to play. If tables are not available, we suggest (utilizing a volunteer when possible) going through the room with handfuls or a small bag of instruments and asking people if they would like to try one/which one would they prefer. Demonstrations to the group, from any point in the room, are helpful. Determine dexterity as you approach a client and help them select appropriate instruments.
If you are unclear as to where you should set up, ask a client or staff member where the artists typically go. If the TV is on, you’re ready to begin and no staff are nearby, a cheerful, “Do you mind if I turn this off?” is usually all it takes. People will let you know if there is a problem with it!
It is important that you create physical closeness to your clients. Don’t set up in the corner or against the wall. Be prepared to move into the room and into their space, as much as possible. They truly appreciate the proximity. Re-arrange seating to suit your needs and encourage latecomers to come on in.
We have found that one of the most effective ways to engage groups of clients is to have volunteers in the room that can interact one on one with clients. TAO works to engage a number of these volunteers. If you have a friend, sibling, offspring or spouse who can serve in this capacity for your program, it makes a tremendous difference. Volunteers are not familiar with your program; they will need to be filled in by you. Give them a little direction as to what kind of support you would like, and they will be happy to oblige. They can find water for you, help you with equipment, help pass out supplies and more. TAO volunteers are instructed to introduce themselves to the artist; if you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask at the beginning of your program, ‘are there any TAO volunteers here today?’
It may be pointed out that you have a client who is deaf, or one who is blind, or a population of Alzheimer’s clients. Do your best to include them in your program. Arrange to have a deaf person move to the front of the room, where you are. Slow the tempo of your songs when working mostly with clients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Enthusiasm is great, and so are cheerful colors and a happy demeanor; but we have found that sensory overload can occur with clients who have dementia. Be upbeat, but calm. Be mindful of their cues and ask for feedback throughout your program.
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Tidewater Arts Outreach is a 501c(3) Virginia not-for-profit corporation, Tax ID 68-0583526.