The collective voice of the Intergenerational Choir is made up of Ithaca College students and Longview residents who come together to make not only music, but memories as well.
Longview, a residential senior community, teamed up with Nancy Tittelbaugh-Riley and John Krout to found the Intergenerational Choir in 1993. Tittelbaugh-Riley was a lecturer at the college in choral music education, and Krout was the director of the college’s Gerontology Institute.
In the fall of 1999, the choir became a weekly activity. Now, the choir offers the opportunity for Ithaca College students to connect to residents through music.
Breelan Nash, recreation and volunteer coordinator at Longview, said the purpose of intergenerational activities is to get older adults and younger adults working and socializing together.
“We just want everyone to have the best opportunity they can with each other,” Nash said. “We have a really great interaction with Ithaca College that enriches both the college’s curriculum and the Longview community.”
Senior Donna Zdan, a piano and music education major at the college, has been singing in the Intergenerational Choir for four years. She decided to join because it combined her two loves of community service and singing.
“They’re all just so thankful for us to be there, and they just have these huge smiles whenever we come every week,” Zdan said. “It’s really gratifying to work with them.”
Barbara Zimet, a resident at Longview, has been participating in the choir for three years. She has been involved with music her whole life and conducted choirs before entering the residential community. Zimet decided to join the choir because of her love for making music.
“Anytime there is a chance to make music, it’s attractive to most folks,” she said.
Nash said she has seen bonds being formed between the students and residents.
“A lot of the students that come over here are in a community service class or are doing fieldwork here,” Nash said. “Many of them keep coming after their hours are fulfilled because they’ve made a real connection with one individual or a group.”
Zimet said she has seen a friend of hers build friendships with the residents.
“She was so bonded with the girl that sat with her, that she called her grandchild, and the grandchild invited her to her wedding this summer,” she said. “It was really a close relationship.”
Zdan compared her relationship with the older adults to having a grandparent on campus.
“It’s been cool to kind of talk to them and hear about what they’ve done with their lives and hearing where they came from, where they grew up, what kind of family they have in the area,” Zdan said.
Emily Mason, assistant professor of music eduction, who is a coordinator for the choir, said that students also benefit from the residents’ words of wisdom.
“It just shows them that you can continue making music well throughout your entire adult life,” Mason said.
Nellie Morley, a student conductor in the choir, has been participating for two years. She said she’s become a better conductor because of her time with the group.
“A bunch of them are teachers, which is cool because they offer words of encouragement when I’m really nervous conducting a new piece or something,” Morley said.
To the younger adults, it is always unsettling when residents of Longview become ill. Zdan said that even leaving for winter and summer breaks can be a sad time.
“We all just kind of get worried and want to make sure everyone gets back safely,” Zdan said. “Sometimes the residents will get sick or have to have a surgery, so we’ll be missing them for a couple rehearsals, especially the ones who come a lot.”
The Intergenerational Choir sings different types of music and will often base their music selection on songs that the residents are familiar with.
“What we try to do is pick pieces that the residents are familiar with, or pieces that were popular and that they were drawn to,” Mason said. “It can be anything from Broadway to jazz, to anything that was popular at that time.”
Zimet said that the music is a good way of teaching the younger adults about early American Heritage.
“I see it as a means of teaching the young folk something that I think should be taught, that is our early American heritage in terms of where music is concerned, and that in turn is pleasant to the old folks because they know them,” Zimet said.
Zdan said the choir is for people who want to do community service, help out residents at Longview and also connect with people they wouldn’t otherwise see.
“It’s one of those things that once you go there you can’t stop in a way,” Zdan said.
“At least for most of us we just really, really enjoy it, and it’s the highlight of the week. Just being able to make music with such deserving people and just having a good time with them and the other students and the conductor.”
The Intergenerational Choir will perform in the Hockett Recital Hall on April 29 at 3 p.m.