Sid’s Emily’s House Jazz Band: Bursting through isolation, with music and friendly visits


For anyone, sometimes connecting with a friend and having a conversation can help you feel grounded, and ready for whatever is next.  Participating in a social activity, or listening to music can give you a surge of happiness, even if you don’t burst out into a car pool karaoke solo. These little things can make a big difference.

Imagine the impact for a child or youth – who may have complex needs, limited mobility, or who can’t speak – when they share a similar experience … like Emily’s House Jazz. Our Emily’s House Therapeutic Music Programmer, describes this as one of his “new favourite things in all of life!”

And, it seems that his excitement for this hospice program activity is contagious. His story started with one young person in our care at Emily’s House:

“One day I joined in Sid's vocalizations, sitting down next to him on the mat, mimicking, modifying, and adding my own sounds. He began smiling and laughing when my own noises got too silly, and in a quick minute we were engaged in a conscious, responsive musical creation together!

The next time we did this, another young person who is often quiet, added their voice to the song.  In a few minutes, a spontaneous Emily's House Band was formed. Musical bells on Velcro were wrapped around wrists.  Some chose tambourines to bang on the trays sitting on top their wheelchairs. Others received help from volunteers with shakers or blocks and sticks, or simply clapped. Without the strictures of a conventional song, each individual's unique expression was equal, heard, and responded to, in shifting movements of song by the other young people and myself. Our music includes a fair amount of discord, and the occasional sharp recorder blast, but the enjoyment is there.

Because of their physical limitations, it can be challenging to find opportunities for these young people to directly interact with one another; and now, we have a consistent forum where as many as are present, interested, and able, can express themselves and hear from others in an ongoing musical conversation – often with Sid as our band leader.”

While spontaneous tambourine jazz may not be the answer for everyone, our specially-trained clinical staff, case workers, therapists and volunteers meet each individual where they are at, with compassionate care that may not add days to their life, but that adds life to their days.

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