Lutheran Creates Suzuki Program

“They’re Rarely Too Young and Never Too Old ‘to Twinkle!'” – Kay Collier Slone’s book on Suzuki method.

The Warner Place Adult Day Health Care Program of Lutheran has teamed up with Nina Karbacka to create a Suzuki violin program for seniors.

Shortly after creating the program, Warner Place was informed that it had won the Innovation of the Year award from the NYS Adult Day Health Care Council, which is part of LeadingAge NY.

The award was for the Suzuki Program under the category of innovation in the area of therapeutic recreational activities. There are only three awards given each year. Jody Shely, director of Warner Place, will be presented with the award at the organization’s annual conference on Thursday.

According to Shely, the award was a result of the program being new, different and not something that many other facilities offer. Shely’s recipe for success, which she will present at the annual conference, included six ingredients: leadership and support, passionate staff, music choices, interested registrants, lessons and practice, and performance.

“It was just an idea that we had that we were able to put together. It’s wonderful and exciting that we’ve won the award,” said Shely. “This program has given our people a sense of accomplishment and independence. I love that participants at all different levels can be part of the music and no one feels left behind.”

In addition to providing fun and laughter for registrants, the Suzuki at Warner Place program provides participants with a number of health benefits. For instance, some of the registrants have a history of stroke, developmental disabilities and dementia, which they are trying to overcome via the program. Some of the registrants are unable to read, and can still participate because the program is based on oral methods. The program works in conjunction with Gayle Williams, certified occupational therapy assistant, and Sarah Kelso, music therapist.

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“It’s wonderfully therapeutic because it lets people who don’t normally fit in feel like they are part of a group,” said Shely. “It also works because registrants learn to hold the violin, which helps with coordination and small motor skills. But, I think the most beneficial aspect is being able to give a performance that you can take pride in.”

Karbacka, a retired violin teacher who coordinated the Suzuki program at area schools, said that the effect the program has on the young and the old is magical.

“They are all benefiting greatly from the experience, both musically and socially,” said Karbacka. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s been very successful in its goals. It’s also an opportunity for me to continue the Suzuki program, which has wonderful success in developing basic musical skills that is unparalleled by other programs.”

There are currently six registrants participating in the program, including: Paul Pajersky, Dorothy Hodge, David Barone, Robert ‘Cecil’ Tryon, Diane Blanchard and Charles Holmes. Two young children, who are home schooled, also participate in the program for their lessons.

Tryon, who has only ever tried playing guitar, and without much success, he said; is making progress on the violin.

“It requires a certain amount of concentration, and it takes my mind off of other things,” said Tryon. “I was also surprised to see anyone that young (the children) taking violin lessons.”

Pajersky, who said he has problems with depression, and is also blind, said that the program has been great for him.

“It helps to chase the blues away,” said Pajersky. “I never saw myself playing a violin, but it turns out that it’s something that I’m really enjoying.”

“Music has a wonderful connection for some people, and this brings it out,” said Tom Holt, Lutheran Jamestown president.

The program was in part made possible via grants from the Community Foundation and Sheldon Foundation.

“It’s a great story of community collaboration, and how it has changed the lives of those participating,” said Patricia Eckwahl, director of marketing for Lutheran.

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