Manol­son’s Mu­si­cal Mis­sion

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Len­noxville

Eric Ak­bar Manol­son be­came known in the East­ern Town­ships for his work with se­niors and for his mu­si­cal tal­ent, of­ten mix­ing the two to cre­ate some very mem­o­rable events such as the In­ter­gen­er­a­tional Mu­sic and Art Fes­ti­vals when he was work­ing with the Town­ship­pers’

As­so­ci­a­tion. Mr. Manol­son has ac­tu­ally been work­ing with spe­cial needs pop­u­la­tions for sev­eral decades, be­gin­ning at the age of fif­teen when he first worked with peo­ple liv­ing with Alzheimer’s and ‘emotionally dis­turbed’ chil­dren.

In what seems like a very nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion of his ca­reer, re­cently Eric has com­bined a non-Western ap­proach to mu­sic, which he learnt study­ing In­dian and East­ern mu­sic in their coun­tries of ori­gin, with his ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with spe­cial needs in­di­vid­u­als to de­velop in­ter­est­ing projects that have po­ten­tial ben­e­fits for Alzheimer’s pa­tients and their care­givers alike.

In an in­ter­view with The Stanstead Jour­nal, Mr. Manol­son spoke about his vi­sion for his “Alzheimer’s and Mu­sic Project” and how it de­vel­oped over the years. “I had al­ready been do­ing mu­sic with spe­cial pop­u­la­tions for sev­eral years when I took a job in Ge­or­gia to work with men­tally ill pa­tients. There I worked with the staff, train­ing them in how they could use their own love of mu­sic to ben­e­fit the pa­tients. I’ve re­ally had so many ex­pe­ri­ences where I could see how the tex­ture of mu­sic cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple could make con­nec­tions,” Eric said.

His “Alzheimer’s and Mu­sic Project” in­volves the use of guided mu­sic or art ses­sions to cre­ate “joy­ous mo­ments of true con­nec­tion”, some­thing that is of­ten lack­ing in the lives of peo­ple liv­ing with Alzheimer’s or brain in­jury. It also in­volves the shar­ing of the know-how and tools with oth­ers so even more can ben­e­fit and learn from the guided ses­sions.

Mr. Manol­son ex­plained how and why he in­cor­po­rated a non-Western ap­proach to mu­sic to the ther­apy. “East­ern mu­sic is dif­fer­ent es­pe­cially in its per­cep­tion of what is a wrong note. I think Amer­i­can Jazz would be the clos­est thing we have to that no­tion here. But how it’s in­ter­est­ing is when an Alzheimer’s pa­tient sings and makes a mis­take, hit­ting a wrong note, how we usu­ally re­act to that,” he ex­plained. Ba­si­cally, an ap­proach of “no wrong notes” equals a more plea­sur­able ex­pe­ri­ence for both pa­tient and care­giver.

Eric has brought this ap­proach, with great suc­cess, to the in­di­vid­ual work he has been do­ing with a North Hat­ley woman who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, Patty Ma­caulay. “We’ve been do­ing th­ese heal­ing mu­si­cal ses­sions for about a year with Eric,” com­mented Mrs. Ma­caulay’s daugh­ter and care­giver, Susan. “It’s mag­i­cal, his abil­ity to con­nect with Mom and me and cre­ate an at­mos­phere where Mom can fully en­gage with the mu­sic. It takes her to a dif­fer­ent time and place. I never learnt to play a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment and I never sang, un­til I be­gan car­ing for my mother in 2011; singing was the only thing we could do to­gether. It makes me feel joy­ful that I have been able to give this gift of mu­sic to my mother.”

Eric is presently work­ing on some­what of a pi­lot project, re­lated to the “Alzheimer’s and Mu­sic Project”, which will be­gin in Jan­uary at the Manoir St. Fran­cis, in the Bor­ough of Len­noxville. Funded by the Til­lot­son Coat­i­cook Re­gional Fund, the project has two as­pects: re­search in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and a par­tic­i­pa­tory mu­si­cal pro­gram which will in­clude giv­ing a con­cert to all of the res­i­dents.

“When I was work­ing with care­givers about a year ago, I guess I got a call­ing to come back to mu­sic ther­apy. I re­al­ized that ev­ery se­nior’s res­i­dence and ev­ery care­giver could have the tools to have the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of mu­sic be part of the lives of peo­ple liv­ing with Alzheimer’s,” con­cluded Eric.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the “Alzheimer’s and Mu­sic project”, con­tact Eric Manol­son at 819 580-1662, or ak­barsmu­sic@gmail.com.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo cour­tesy

Un­der the di­rec­tion of Kim Strepka, the United Christian Academy bell choir rang and sang on the third floor of North Coun­try Hos­pi­tal this past Thurs­day. They per­formed for about 30 min­utes in the so­lar­ium and then sang and rang in a few pa­tient rooms and hall­ways, de­light­ing pa­tients and staff alike. They are a very tal­ented group, with an up­com­ing Christ­mas con­cert at the Church of God on Craw­ford Road in Derby, Thurs­day, De­cem­ber 11 at 7:00 pm.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Mu­si­cian Eric Ak­bar Manol­son, who has worked with spe­cial needs pop­u­la­tions most of his ca­reer, com­bines both of th­ese in­ter­ests in his work with very promis­ing re­sults.

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