Phi Mu Alpha hosts fundraiser, provides music to the elderly

Elizsabethtown sophomore Ethan Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee junior CJ Powell and Bowling Green senior Angelo Rodriguez sit in the Fine Arts Center collecting money for their fraternity’s fund- raiser on Monday. Phi Mu Alpha was raising money to help bring music to people with with dementia. KATHRYN ZIESIG/HERALD

Emma Austin

Music has the power to take people to a different time and place. We link music to important life events as well as a wide range of other memories and emotions.

Owensboro senior Joseph Powers, WKU’s chapter president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, said he witnessed this power of music last year at a Phi Mu Alpha workshop. Powers said the keynote speaker showed a video of an Alzheimer’s patient who was given an iPod with music from his youth.

Before the patient received the iPod, he was very unresponsive, Powers said. When he heard the music, he immediately perked up and started talking again.

“After watching the video, our entire chapter knew we wanted to do something like this for the people in our community who are suffering from this terrible disease,” Oakland senior Zach Watts said.

The chapter collectively purchased four iPod Shuffles to donate to an adult day care facility where they will benefit patients struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Phi Mu Alpha will also hold a fundraiser this week where donors have a chance to win a jar of Dum Dum lollipops by guessing the correct number of sweets inside. All money raised will be used to purchase iTunes gift cards to be donated with the iPods.

“This project connects with me because I’ve had several family members be put into nursing homes due to health issues,” Chalybeate senior Kyle Vincent said. “Anything we can do to help these great people enjoy music again, we will do.”

Vincent said the chapter holds fundraisers every semester to provide donations to music-related causes, such as helping high schools purchase instruments for their band programs.

Powers said the fraternity also gets involved with the community by traveling to nursing homes and singing to the residents, a tradition inspired by Phi Mu Alpha founder Ossian Mills, who sang to tuberculosis patients.

“At least once a semester, we go to nursing homes and sing songs just to try and brighten people’s days,” Powers said.

The chapter decided to donate iPods to give residents the option to choose their own music and listen to it whenever they want.

Several case studies have examined the idea that memory for music can be preserved in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers Amee Baird, conjoint lecturer at the University of Newcastle, and Severine Samson, university professor at Universite de Lille, in their 2009 article “Memory for Music in Alzheimer’s Disease: Unforgettable?”

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, a person’s ability to engage in music remains intact late into the disease because it is an activity that requires little to no cognitive or mental processing.

Music selections from the patient’s young adult years are likely to have the strongest responses, although unfamiliar music can also be beneficial because it carries no memories or emotions and can help develop new responses in a patient, AFA stated.

“Music is one of the most powerful things on earth,” Watts said. “We want these patients to experience the music from their youth to rejuvenate them and help them gain that memory and brain function back.”

The fundraiser will take place March 28-30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first floor of the Fine Arts Center.