Choir Formed by Alzheimer's Patients & Their Caregivers Is as Amazing as It Sounds


While the Giving Voice chorus may look like a normal choir, the people who form it are breaking stereotypes and improving their own health. They are proving that patients with Alzheimer’s can still learn new skills and that their disease doesn’t define them.

Everyone who is a part of the Giving Voice chorus has been touched by this devastating form of dementia; they either suffer from the disease themselves or are a caregiver to someone who does.

The co-founders of the choir, Mary Lenard and Marge Ostroushko, were amazed when they heard about the powerful effect music can have on those who have dementia. Both of their lives had been touched by the disease, which motivated them to help others find joy, purpose and community while trying to win daily battles with their own minds.

Their hope, according to their website, is to trigger “a movement that celebrates the potential of people with Alzheimer’s.”

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The first chorus started meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2014. Only 30 people started the chorus, but it has since grown to over 100 participants.

Those who join the choir not only find a strong community of people full of encouragement, but they also find a chance to challenge the stereotype that those diagnosed with dementia are unable to learn new skills.

In 2015, the University of Minnesota conducted a study of 16 members of the Giving Voice chorus.

“In individual interviews and focus groups, people with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias noted increased self-esteem, confidence and a strong sense of belonging after singing,” the Giving Voice website says. “They reported greater attention, learning, mastery and a shared degree of purpose and hope.”

Michael Brodie, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, has seen how music helps his memory firsthand.

“It’s very, very good for getting my brain working,” he told CBS News. “I have no idea how all that works. I just am really glad that it’s there.”

The chorus recently learned nine original songs that were performed in St. Paul. Composer Victor Zupanc and poet Louisa Castner collaborated and wrote the new pieces pulling inspiration from different members’ personal stories.

While a daunting task at first, members of the chorus have come to appreciate the new songs on a deeper level.

“They keep pulling us aside and saying, ‘You, you’ve given us a voice,'” Zupanc told CBS.

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The “Ballad of the Dinghy,” for example, was inspired by Janet Labrecque, a caregiver who is also a member of the chorus. She has found solace in the group.

When describing the song, she said, “It really sums up the whole experience, of both the stormy days, uncertainty, but yet the kind of bedrock of friendship and family, and somehow knowing it’s going to be alright.”

The Giving Voice chorus is not only helping its members physically with their memory, but also provides an encouraging, uplifting community for them to be a part of.

During a concert, one member said, “So often we’re told what we can’t do, but here, it’s about what we can do.”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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