Music & Parkinson’s – An Embracing Life Session

Written by Panorama staff. May 2016

The monthly meeting of the support group, Living with Parkinson’s, was a bit different Embracing Lifethis month. Embracing Life brought on choir director and voice teacher, Troy Fisher, for this May meeting. The purpose of this session was to give people with Parkinson’s a safe place to work on activities to help strengthen their voices and express themselves freely. If I could use just one word to describe this particular meeting, it would be “fun.”

Troy had the class start with breathing exercises, inhaling deep breaths and releasing. As the group moved onto tongue and humming exercises, Troy actively engaged with the group. His lively and energetic personality made these normal exercises more entertaining and enjoyable. Then, the real fun began.

Troy had the class sing “Getting to Know You” from the King and I. Each receiving a paper copy of lyrics, the group sung along with Troy. They sang the song several times, working on singing it by memory or increasing their singing volume. Volume was an important topic to this group. Nearly everyone who has Parkinson’s experiences a soft and hoarse voice, making their speech hard to understand and hindering their communication abilities. Troy commented that when a person loses their volume from a disease like Parkinson’s, your pitch tends to lessen, causing a softer and lower voice. He said that if you want volume, you up your pitch, even if it means just going up an octave. He used one particular exercise with volume. He had each group member say their name normally. Then, he had them say their names again, upping their pitch just a bit. The change in volume was drastic! Even if a person feels like they’re yelling, knowing they have the capability to communicate is worth it.

The group and Troy spent the rest of the session singing other songs and doing some dance movements. Troy’s engagement with the group brought out more laughter, smiles and energy at the end than in the beginning of the session. He left the group with a great message that can apply to everyone. He stated that everybody can sing and should sing; everyone should experience the joy of participating and not just listening. By giving the group tools to improve their speech and communication ability, Troy was able to give the group the chance to gain a better quality of life.

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