Presbyterian Homes hosts benefit concert

Two-time Grammy Award winning singer Sylvia McNair and pianist Kevin Cole will perform music from the Great American Songbook in a benefit concert on February 7 at Westminster Place, a Presbyterian Homes' community in Evanston.

The concerts benefit the new Songs By Heart Foundation, which provides communication and connection to people with memory loss through the language and joy of music.

"My own successful experience in connecting with a family member with advanced stage Alzheimer's disease through music led me to establish the Songs By Heart Foundation," says Nancy Gustafson, founder and executive director. "We want to offer the same opportunity for engagement and improved quality of life to others with memory loss."  A lifelong resident of Evanston, Gustafson is an opera singer and artist-in-residence at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music.  

The foundation, Gustafson said, "is seeking funding for a 12-week pilot program to develop a template for providing daily, interactive, live vocal performance with piano accompaniment for people with memory loss. The program will take place at Presbyterian Homes' retirement communities in Lake Forest, Evanston, and Arlington Heights."

The pilot program will help establish best practices in its approach to reaching people with dementia in the present moment and enhancing their engagement with others. A music therapist and an expert in memory care will mentor the performers in connecting with older adults with dementia.  Established assessment tools will measure the program's impact on engagement and quality of life. Songs By Heart Foundation's mission is to offer this outreach to persons with memory loss at retirement communities nationally.

General admission tickets for the concert are $125.  The concert performance and reception on Saturday, February 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Westminster Place takes place in Elliott Chapel at  3131 Simpson St. in Evanston. An earlier performance takes place on Friday, February 6, at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Forest Place, 1100 Pembridge Drive, Lake Forest, in the Vail Room. A reception follows both concerts.

To purchase tickets, please call 513-503-8917 or visit www.presbyterianhomes.org.

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