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Grant supports Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s memory loss music program

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Grant supports Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s memory loss music program
Boston Landmarks Orchestra Music and Memory concerts provide a respite for those living with memory loss and those caring for them. PHOTO: DAVID ARNOLD

Boston Landmarks Orchestra has received a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation in support of its Music and Memory program that brings intimate performances to patients living with memory loss and dementia around Greater Boston.

Music has been proven to be intrinsically and deeply tied to memory. Research reveals that the parts of the brain that process music deteriorate less than other parts of a brain battling degenerative diseases. The Music and Memory program brings sensory-friendly and recognizable pieces of music to the audience during a 40-45 minute set. Each piece of music is offset with short speaking portions to provide context. The musicians generally play classical music, which has also been found to calm anxiety. 

Boston Landmarks Orchestra Music and Memory concerts provide a respite for those living with memory loss and those caring for them. PHOTO: DAVID ARNOLD

A representative from Rogerson House Memory Care in Jamaica Plain said of the concert, “[It was] such a beautiful experience for our residents, their families, our staff … It was just amazing. Residents who are nonverbal in their stage of dementia were smiling, clapping their hands.” Other testimonials note that residents with significant memory impairment remember the words to the songs and pieces of their lives when they listen to this music.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra will use the grant funds, dispersed over the course of three years, to bring the concerts to a wider range of facilities. “This grant is truly transformational for our Music and Memory program, and we can’t wait to start working with additional communities,” said Mary Deissler, co-executive director.

The orchestra’s mission from its conception was to bring diverse, live performances to the Boston community with as few barriers to access as possible. This has manifested in community concerts at the DCR Memorial Hatch Shell on the Esplanade and at other sites around Boston, and in initiatives to make music more accessible to people who are blind, deaf, or hard of hearing and to those with physical disabilities and sensory sensitivities. Financial barriers have been broken as well: Every Landmarks Orchestra concert is free.

In the Music and Memory program, Landmarks reaches another frequently marginalized community, seniors and those living with cognitive decline.

Cummings Foundation Executive Director Joyce Vyriotes said, “We are so fortunate in greater Boston to have such effective nonprofits, plus a wealth of talented, dedicated professionals and volunteers to run them. We are indebted to [nonprofits] for the work they do each day to provide for basic needs, break down barriers to education and health resources, and work toward a more equitable society.”

Boston Landmarks Orchestra, music and memory
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