Manolson’s Musical Mission
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.