Bringing holiday and new music to the Snyder Nursing Home

The flute quartet – (from left to right) Heather Eisinger, Lizzy Kunde, Megan Humphrey and Kate Leonard. Photo by Trish Winter.

Four sophomore music therapy students provided an interactive flute concert on Dec. 5 for the residents of Snyder Nursing Home in Salem, Virginia.

The student performers were organizer Kate Leonard with Heather Eisinger, Lizzy Kunde, and Megan Humphry. Kunde also wrote an original composition for this concert.

This performance was an honors assignment for Leonard. She was to create a project for her music therapy class allowing for more in-depth thinking and hands-on experience of the topics discussed in the class.

“This performance allowed me to have firsthand experience playing in a nursing home setting,” she said. “It also gave me the chance to make decisions that may be useful in a music therapy session.”

Though she notes this was not a music therapy session, the experience involved choices a music therapist might need to make. These included choosing performance songs appropriate for a specific population, in this case nursing home residents. Also, to engage her audience, she dedicated a portion of the concert to resident participation.

“I had to choose instruments that were accessible for them, such as egg shakers, which are easy to grip and jingle bells that are easy to use,” Leonard said. “By having them join in, the residents were grounded in the moment and more actively involved in the music experience, which is oftentimes a part of a music therapy session.”

Eisinger also added that such activities are often therapeutic because songs can bring back memories and make people feel more energized.

When asked about how the quartet formed, Eisinger said, “We get along well. When Kate asked us to help her with her project it only made sense to say yes.” Humphrey added it was a great way to provide a community service.

The quartet specifically came together for this concert though all knew each other from classes and playing in the Radford University Symphonic Band. Together the four take a concentrated course in flute study called flute studio. With this, Kunde, whose major includes piano, is minoring in flute.

Kunde said based on Leonard’s concert music choices; the four flutists are on fairly equal performance levels. This idea was the inspiration for the piece she composed for this performance.

“Very often the different parts of a flute choir only shows off one or two players but with this piece I wanted to challenge that idea,” she said. “Therefore, each player is given a chance to demonstrate both lyrical and technical expertise. The beginning is meant to sound very ethereal with the feature of the lyrical solos. The middle becomes a compilation of the beginning solos and then diverges into the technical solos and at the end the technical solos combine to make a cacophony of sound that soon resolves to harmony.”

When the concert was over, Humphrey reflected on a specific moment as one of the most fulfilling of this project. The quartet played “Silent Night” and they noticed one of the residents sang along.

“It was nice to see that our performance was really having an effect on the residents,” Humphrey said. “I loved being able to put a smile on the residents' faces during the holiday season.”

Dec 8, 2015