St. Cecilia Music Center Adds Value to Quality of Life for Adults Who Participate in Their Music Programs

St. Cecilia Music Center (SCMC) not only provides excellent training in music and performance for children through their School of Music, they are also influencing the health and well being of adults that participate in their music ensembles. Studies have shown that community arts programs run by professional artists and musicians have powerful positive effect on older adults’ physical health, mental health and social functioning and increases their quality of life and overall happiness.

Paul Keen is the new conductor for the Grand Band at SCMC. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Cornerstone University where he teaches music. He says that working with older adults is different than with college students. “Whereas college students are earnest in their pursuit of building their skills to succeed in the workplace, older adults, like those who participate in St. Cecilia’s Grand Band, gather together to play music mostly for the joy of it.”

St. Cecilia Music Center’s Grand Band and Grand String Orchestra will hold their annual holiday concert on Sunday, December 11 from 3 – 4:30 pm where the public can experience the spirit of SCMC’s adult students. Music by the Grand Band will include Leroy Anderson’s “Christmas Festival Overture” and “Sleigh Ride”, “Noel”, “The Coventry Carol”, “What a Wonderful World”, John Phillip Sousa’s “Washington Post”, and audience participation sing along of other Christmas favorites. The concert is free to the public on a first come first served basis. St. Cecilia Music Center is located at 24 Ransom Ave. NE in Downtown Grand Rapids. For more information about the concert or joining one of the adult ensembles, visit – or – phone Education Director Martha Cudlipp Bundra at 616-459-2224.

Many of the players in St. Cecilia’s Grand Band are older adults, in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and one woman in her 90’s. Other players are younger including a 14 year old who joined the band with his mother. Keen comments, “Nobody is forced to be here. In fact they pay to be involved and they do it for the joy of being together, learning, playing the music, and applying their skills on their instruments. Basically they want to “keep on keeping on” and they look forward to it.”

One study has found that participants in arts groups used less medication, had fewer doctor visits, experienced elevated moods, showed an increase in the level of independent functioning (where normally decline would have been expected), did better on scales for depression, loneliness, and morale, and exhibited an increase in a number of activities (while control group members experienced a decrease).

Another study from the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, has found that older adults involved in music showed more robust gains in memory, verbal fluency, the speed at which they processed information, planning ability, and cognitive functions.

Even though Keen has only served as the conductor for the Grand Band for a few months, he states that his students have already taught him a lot. “These older musicians have taught me that there’s more to life than just achieving goals. They have taught me that it’s not just good enough to attack the task of learning and playing the music well – they want the entire experience and the process to be enjoyable. That is what this Band is really about. It comes through in their playing – their joy in everything we do is the reason that they are here.”