Music therapy program starts at Guild Hall

Singing Out With Parkinson’s Patients




Valerie diLorenzo. Independent/Courtesy Guild Hall

To classify Parkinson’s Disease simply as a degenerative nerve disorder is to ignore the auxiliary effects, including the loss of motor skills and frequently of the patient’s voice, which leads even further to the isolation, anxiety, and depression which come with any prognosis. Now Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease, in association with Guild Hall and the American Parkinson Disease Association, present Sing Out Loud, starting on Wednesday, April 3, a therapeutic choral group designed specifically for people living with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners.

Singing may lead to improved muscle function, resulting in improved voice intensity, speech production, and respiratory function. The group format specifically creates a social setting that fosters a sense of camaraderie and may improve mood, decrease stress, and
alleviate symptoms of depression.

This lively eight-week workshop, led by Valerie diLorenzo, an award-winning vocalist and teaching artist, engages participants in singing-based therapy to address the vocal symptoms of Parkinson’s. The chorus also promotes social connections through the process of musical exploration. No prior singing experience required.

The Sing Out Loud therapeutic chorus is one of seven programs offered through the hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease, whose mission is to provide fitness and cultural programming to people living with Parkinson Disease on the East End. Other class offerings include Rock Steady Boxing in Hampton Bays and Sag Harbor, Dance for Parkinson’s in Bridgehampton, Paint the Parrish, offered in collaboration with the Parrish Art Museum, Explore SOFO at the South Fork History Museum, and yoga offered at the hospital.

The Sing Out Loud program launched last summer at the Southampton Arts Center, and has grown over the past year. In order to better meet the needs of participants, it’s now offered at the Riverhead Free Library (under the direction of Lee Morris and Renee Fabus). Branching out to Guild Hall will help to serve the South Fork community as well.

“We all have skills, things we can do, and sometimes we are unsure as to just how much performing these skills (no pun intended) will affect other
people and in what way,” said diLorenzo.

“When the wife of one of the participants in Sing Out Loud comes to me after class and says, ‘Thank you so much for not treating my husband like a patient,’ this is more rewarding to me than any amount of applause,” she continued. “Yes, this is a program designed for those with Parkinson’s and their caregivers, but they sing without being measured or ‘medicalized’ in any way. That is the joy. That is the reward.”

Sarah Cohen, program director of the hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease, was named winner of the 2019 Degenerative Diseases Special Interest Group Service Award in recognition of her “tireless pursuit of improving the lives of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease who live on the East End of Long Island.”

™Sing Out Loud draws in people with diverse musical backgrounds — some with no experience and others who have been professional trained,” Cohen told The Independent. “But, for the hour and a half we spend together each week, we come together for the joy of creating and appreciating music,” she said.

“One of our participants at our Riverhead program mentioned there is nothing he would rather be doing than singing with Sing Out Loud on a Friday morning. I am incredibly grateful to the amazing team of music directors, collaborating partners, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, and the American Parkinson Disease Association — all of whom have made this program possible,” Cohen added.

Sing Out Loud runs from April 3 through May 22, from 1 to 2:30 PM at Guild Hall in East Hampton. To register, call the Ed and Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, 631-726-8800. For more information about the hospital’s other programs, visit www.southampton.stonybrookmedicine.edu.

bridget@indyeastend.com