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Preschool, elderly share pitch pipe songs

Jim Rosica from Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn

Jim Rosica from Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge conducted a group of preschoolers and residents with Alzheimer's disease and dementia during an intergenerational concert at Medford Multicare Center. (May 2, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

Jim Rosica conducted a group of preschoolers and elderly people at a nursing facility in Medford on Thursday, blowing into his pitch pipe and singing.

The music stopped and Rosica pointed to preschooler Matthew Orta, who was following his lead.

“Who are you, who who who who,” Rosica mouthed the words of the song "Who are you," by The Who.

With a giggle, Matthew answered, “Clark Kent. Superman!”

Matthew was one of six preschoolers from Primarily 2s and 3s, a preschool in Mount Sinai, to use pitch pipes to sing along to oldies with residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia during an intergenerational concert at Medford Multicare Center.

Rosica, from the group Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, led what he called the “Very Cool Music School Pitch Pipe Intergenerational Concert.”

Rosica, 66, of Coram, visits the Medford center every two weeks to play music with the residents. He said he likes to use the pitch pipe because it has the letters of the alphabet on it to represent pitches, so anyone can play it.

Five years ago, Rosica also started a music program practicing the pitch pipe with preschoolers at Primarily 2s and 3s every Thursday. But this was the first time he brought the groups together, hoping to have them bond through music.

“This gives people of no specific age the experience of making music with others,” said Rosica.

The six preschoolers and a dozen residents played songs dating back to the 1950s like the 1958 hit “Sixteen Candles,” by The Crests.

Bill Murphy, 39, of Miller Place, accompanied his daughter Maya, 4, to the concert. He let out a chuckle as she sang along to one of her favorite songs, “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys, using the pitch pipe on every other lyric.

“I think it’s great exposure for these kids to interact with people a lot older than they are, especially if it helps those in the room with dementia recall memories through music,” he said. “And my daughter loves sharing her love for music.”

Carolyn O’Brien, director of therapeutic recreation and volunteer services at Medford Multicare Center, said the program is clearly beneficial to residents with dementia.

“They remember these songs from when they were young,” O’Brien said. “This program improves their quality of life, especially having the kids come in.”

Palma DiGennaro, 91, a resident with dementia, seemed to master her pitch pipe.

“I liked how the kids were entertaining us and we could play music together,” said DiGennaro, of Copiague. “Hearing the music, I felt young again.”

Marty Fink, who is receiving rehabilitation services at the center, said the program brightened his day.

“It’s wonderful to have the kids around. We all really get a kick out of it,” said Fink, 72, of Commack. “Some of them made me emotional. The songs remind us of when we were young.”

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