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  • Writer's picturePat Clark


Recently I was playing for a group of residents in the memory care unit of a local nursing home. Generally we start with around fifteen blank faces that have been wheeled and assisted into an open sitting area. I work hard at playing and singing upbeat stimulating music that gets everyone awake and singing along.

One resident that attends every week produces “word salad” when she tries to speak. Simply said, the words and sentences are mixed up and incomprehensible. Nevertheless she keeps time with the music, smiles, laughs at funny lyrics, and is engaged in what is happening.

I was playing “Sidewalks of New York” which is a favorite sing along for the group. When we came to the phrase “London Bridge is falling down” the rhythm of the song is supposed to change. Without going into details, a long – short sequence should turn into a short – long sequence at that point. I played and sang it incorrectly, neglecting to change the rhythm. My peripheral vision caught her frowning and when I looked over she was pointing to the music stand, looking at me, and shaking her head “no”. That grabbed my attention so we played and sang the verse again. This time I was more careful and played the London Bridge sequence correctly. Of course I wanted to see her reaction. This time she was smiling, pointing to the music stand and nodding a big “yes” for me.

I finished the song and she immediately became very animated and began talking in her familiar incomprehensible speech. No one understood her….except me. I knew what she was talking about. My heart soared. We had shared a moment.

Music had succeeded when words failed.

P.S. I have never been so grateful for an error in my life!!! We must never let our mistakes get us down.

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