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Lifelong Singers: New choir seeks to reconnect families through music

Bobbi Pominville, center, recently conducted an interview about the Lifelong Singers choir with Angie Pilgrim, left, of the St. Croix Valley Foundation, and Nancy Abrahamson, Dementia Care Specialist with the ADRC in St. Croix County. Photo by Meg Heaton

Bobbi Pominville has been all about the music all of her life.

She was a choral teacher in the Hudson School District for 34 years. And in retirement music is still central in her life as is her commitment to community. She is a member of five choirs including one that serves the Christian Community Home. She is involved in the Hudson Women's Club and is chairman of this year's Garden Tour.

But her latest project is near and dear to her heart and she hopes a lot of people will feel the same way.

Pominville, along with assistance from Carol Dahle, another music legend in Hudson, is working with the Dementia Friendly Communities Coalition to create the St. Croix Valley Lifelong Singers Choir. Choirs like it are popping up across the country because research has shown that music does have healing powers, especially for those living with dementia.

Similar choirs have included people with memory loss and their caregivers. Lifelong Singers hopes to attract families and friends dealing with dementia as well but everyone is welcome to participate.

The debut performance of the choir will be part of the second Annual Dementia Friendly Sunday at Music by Heart in Lakefront Park Hudson on June 9. Pominville and a counterpart from the Amery area have organized three rehearsals open to all "choral enthusiasts" in preparation. The rehearsals will be held at Bethel Lutheran Church downtown and the schedule appears with this story. Area rehearsals are also scheduled in Amery and Centuria.

Pominville was approached about starting the choir by a former student and a member of the coalition, Shelli Destasio, and she immediately got on board. She has seen firsthand the impact singing and music has on the residents she works with at CCH.

"It's amazing to see people who don't seem to connect with much sit up and take notice, sing along and really get into it. They become engaged and it is such a positive experience for everyone involved. That's the beauty of music," said Pominville.

Pominville says dementia has touched her family as well as her husband's.

"That's what feels so good about this. It affects so many people, so many families and caregivers. And singing seems to make a connection when words aren't there," she said.

Nancy Abrahamson is the Dementia Care Specialist with the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center of St. Croix County. She works with families all over the county to help them come to terms with dementia and to access the resources and services available to them. She says she has seen firsthand the positive impact of music in the lives of those living with memory loss and those caring for them.

"Music is so basic. We start listening in the womb and hear it all our lives, whether at home, in school, performed, on television, even commercials. Music is the one activity that uses both sides of the brain and stays in our long-term memory for life. It reduces anxiety, changes mood and engages people. Even those who are non-verbal can still sing words. It seems that it kind of operates remotely," said Abrahamson.

The Lifelong Singers choir will perform a lot of songs that are likely in the long-term memory - traditional hymns and patriotic songs along with old favorites. Pominville describes them as "joyful things."

Just like last year, songbooks with all the words will be provided in case a few of the lyrics have

slipped the mind.

Music by Heart community sing along is the culmination of Dementia Friendly Sunday.

Churches throughout the area will be conducting dementia friendly services designed to make everyone comfortable and to promote understanding about living with dementia.

Everyone is welcome to attend the rehearsals but attendance is not necessary to participate

with the choir at Music by Heart.

For more information about how churches can participate in Dementia Friendly Sunday, or

about the Lifelong Singers Choir, contact Angie Pilgrim, Programs Officer for the St. Croix Valley Foundation, at apilgrim@scvfoundation.org.

For more information about dementia and support and services available contact Abrahamson at the ADRC at Nancy.Abrahamson@sccwi.gov

Calling all Choral Enthusiasts!

Please join the Dementia Friendly Communities Coalition in creating a unique St. Croix Valley Life-Long Singers Choir! All ages and abilities welcome. The rehearsals will take place:

• 6-7 p.m. Thursday, April 25 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Hudson (downtown) and Peace Lutheran Church, Dresser

• 6-7 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Hudson (downtown) and Fristad Lutheran Church, Centuria

• 6-7 p.m. Thursday, June 6 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Hudson (downtown) and Congregational Church, Amery