Mind And Melody Provides Music Enrichment For Dementia Patients


By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

They tapped their feet, shook maracas and tambourines and even sang along.

Inside A Bella Vita, an assisted living home in Delray Beach, the four residents participated in an interactive concert experience put on by musicians from Mind and Melody.

Diogo Das Virgens sang and played the guitar while Dave Kurzman played bongos, an alto saxophone and flute.

They sang popular songs like “You are My Sunshine,” “Yellow Submarine” and “Imagine.”

They instructed the residents to make beats to the music and had them start and stop, go fast and then slow and then guess the name of the movie that the song they played appeared in.

With a little help, they were able to guess Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music and Pinocchio correctly.

Nonprofit Mind and Melody was created in 2014 by Crisitina Rodriguez and Lauren Koff.

Rodriguez first came up with the idea in 2009. At the time she was volunteering at a hospital and saw that there was little engagement.

She was never able to bring music to that hospital, but the idea stayed with her. The co-founders met during their junior year of college. They needed a thesis for their program and the music concept was one they both liked.

They researched the effects of music on neurocognitive disorders, specifically dementia, and found incredible benefits and decided they wanted to design a thesis around that concept. They wanted to teach dementia patients how to play instruments.

Ultimately, it was not their thesis project. But they wanted to pursue the idea. And in 2014, the program was born.

Currently, Mind and Melody performs 100 sessions every month throughout the state. It visits the Delray home twice a month.

“There is nothing more engaging than music,” Koff said.

The program was able to jump from six sessions to 30 sessions in Palm Beach County thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Quantum Foundation last year.

“We see the lives we are changing,” she said.

So, does Kurzman, who has been performing with Mind and Melody for the past six months.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “You see the people come to life. This works. You see change in real time.”

He said the songs selected are ones the folks may recall from their younger years.

“It triggers memories that are deep inside,” he said. “It’s rewarding and its impressive what can be done with music.”

He said both sets of his grandparents had types of dementia and his involvement with Mind and Melody is a way for him to give back.

He said he knew he was making a difference from the first session he walked into.

“From the first moment I handed out the instruments,” he said. “It’s the music and the atmosphere.”

Owner of A Bella Vita Place Nicole B- Germain said the interaction and engagement makes a big difference for her residents.

“The minute the music starts to play, they are in another world,” she said.

When the hour long show was over, the residents were already asking when the musicians would return.