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Grant helps those with dementia make beautiful music

Fox Valley Memory Project’s On a Positive Note chorus entertained an audience of nearly 200 for their spring concert finale on Sunday, March 31., thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Tom and Jean Orbison Charitable Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

By Jill H Grambow, Executive Director of Fox Valley Memory Project

Fox Valley Memory Project’s On a Positive Note chorus performed spirited renditions of countless favorites like “Danny Boy” and “Wild Irish Rose.” They sang upbeat ditties such as “Rock Around the Clock” and the showstopper, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” played on kazoos. Yes, that’s right – I said kazoos.

This very special chorus is made up of people who are living with dementia and memory loss alongside care-partners and friends who love singing and socializing. This lively bunch of vocalists come together in spring and fall for weekly practices over the course of a couple of months and then showcase their energy and singing prowess with a handful of performances throughout the community.

(Video via NBC26)

Kathleen Albrecht is their firecracker musical director who puts on a spirited performance along with the impeccably gifted piano prodigy, Tony Cardella. Kathleen’s experience in vocal music spans 30+ years. Tony is a recent Lawrence University graduate with stunning piano talent that takes your breath away. The chorus is currently made up of about 22 of the coolest people you’ll ever meet! This is a time and place where the fear associated with memory loss is eased in an atmosphere of inclusivity, social comfort, song, laughter, and Kathleen’s treats.

I recently walked into my first practice and my pal Will said, “Hey, did you come to sing with us?” I was really just there for a few announcements and to drop off the new t-shirts, but was swept into song the instant Tony started tickling the ivories. I turned to Dan and said with immediate fervor, “Hand me that songbook!” We sang together for 50 minutes and then had cake.

Jill Grambow, Fox Valley Memory Project

None of this would be possible without the 2019 season sponsor of On a Positive Note, the Tom and Jean Orbison Charitable Fund housed with Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Tom and Jean have been friends of Fox Valley Memory Project almost since its inception in 2012. Jean shared with me, “We have done it all – Memory Cafés, bus trips, On a Positive Note. Tom loves to sing and used to sing in the Presbyterian Choir. We wanted to find a way to support music for those living with memory issues with a charitable fund because Tom loves it so much.”

Thank you Tom and Jean Orbison and Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Yes, On a Positive Note is a beautiful opportunity for people to come together and lift their voices, but it is also so much more.


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