Indianapolis music class connects toddlers and kids with seniors

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Watch the connection that comes for all old and young when they come together in intergenerational music class.
Kelly Wilkinson, [email protected]

Vickie Price says her mother, Dee Adams, has always loved two things: music and kids.

Five years ago, Adams was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, Price says, it’s become more difficult for her mother to remember things and hold conversations. But during Adams’ two years living at The Hearth at Prestwick, an assisted-living facility in Avon, one thing has always brought a smile to her face.

Adams is one of many “grandfriends” who have participated in a Joyful Melodies music class. Started in 2015 by music therapist Lauren Servos, these intergenerational music classes connect toddlers and children with residents of Indianapolis-area senior-living communities.

Originally from Fort Wayne, Servos says she begged her mom to let her take piano lessons when she was in the second grade. After later picking up the flute and also growing her passion for singing, she went on to study music therapy at Michigan State University. She graduated in 2009 and has since worked as a music therapist at Riley Hospital.

Hailey Jeffries, left, and Riley Palmer join others in dancing to song during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)

Once Servos and her husband had their first child, she realized there was a missing gap of music programming in the Indianapolis community. That, combined with her knowledge of the dangers of older adult loneliness, prompted her to create Joyful Melodies and begin teaching intergenerational music classes, which are held every Monday at various senior living communities in Indianapolis, Avon and Zionsville.

“I just really wanted to create a space where everybody was made to feel welcome and to bring people together,” Servos said. “I now look forward to Mondays every week because I know I get to do this.”

Vickie Price, from left, and her mother Delores Adams, swing a parachute over Hailey Jeffries' head during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Delores Adams smiles while scarves swing to the beat of a song during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Riley Palmer plays with scarves while dancing to music during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, left, and her mother Delores Adams, right, greet Owen Palmer as they join in the fun during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Delores Adams, right, smiles and says hello to the children during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Delores Adams high fives Owen Palmer during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, left, leads musical activities, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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Delores Adams smiles as she joins in the fun during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, left, and her mother Delores Adams, right, join in the fun during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Riley Palmer plays with a musical instrument during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Zuri Smith plays with a musical instrument during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Delores Adams watches the children during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Delores Adams swings a scarf during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, left, and her mother Delores Adams, right, join in the fun during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Teagan White shakes a musical instrument while standing with her mother Brittany White during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Hailey Jeffries, left, and Riley Palmer join others in dancing to song during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Hailey Jeffries, left, and Riley Palmer join others in dancing to song during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Hailey Jeffries, left, and Riley Palmer join others in dancing to song during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Hailey Jeffries, left, and Riley Palmer join others in dancing to song during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, left, and her mother Delores Adams, get musical instruments to use from Hailey Jeffries during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Hailey Jeffries, right, hands out musical instruments to grandfriends, including Avis Shipman, left, during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, left, leads dancing with scarves to music, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, left, leads musical activities, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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Emily Bell holds her children Olivia, center, and Jackson, right, during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, left, and her mother Delores Adams, center, swing scarves to the beat of the music during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, center, leads musical activities, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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Avis Shipman, from left, Vickie Price, and Price's mother Delores Adams, laugh while playing with a parachute during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, left, and her mother Delores Adams, right, join in the fun with a parachute during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Avis Shipman, from left, Vickie Price, and Price's mother Delores Adams, swing the parachute over children's heads, during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Vickie Price, from left, and her mother Delores Adams, swing a parachute over Hailey Jeffries' head during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Everlynn Palmer snuggles with her children Riley and Owen Palmer, during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, left, leads musical activities, as Everlynn Palmer and her children Owen and Riley Palmer, and Zuri Smith, right, check out Servos' guitar, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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Vickie Price, from left, and her mother Delores Adams, watch as Sheri Jeffries and her granddaughter Hailey Jeffries check out a guitar during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Olivia Bell strums a guitar during Joyful Melodies intergenerational music class at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, center, leads musical activities, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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Joyful Melodies' Lauren Servos, left, gets hugs from Riley Palmer, left, and her brother Owen Palmer, at the end of  music class, at The Hearth at Prestwick in Avon, Monday, July 22, 2019.  Servos is a music therapist who runs the intergenerational music programming at The Hearth at Prestwick.

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During the class, Servos leads the kids and grandfriendson classics like “The Hokey Pokey” and “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” (Today’s class gives the song a spin, though, with a farmer living on a beach owning an octopus, a crab and, after an audience suggestion, a penguin.)

The kids and grandfriends also swing gauzy scarves back-and-forth and make the proper hand motions to the viral tune “Baby Shark.” In one of the most anticipated parts of the class, they bring out a colorful parachute to dance under while listening to one of Taylor Swift’s latest hits.

Once the 45-minute class nears its end, Servos asks her kids and grandfriends to “sniff a flower, then blow a bubble” ⁠— that is, take a deep breath and relax as the class ends with the same “snuggle song”: “You Are My Sunshine.”

Servos asks the class to find a friend to snuggle with as Price glances over at Adams, who is still smiling as she watches the children. While Price says the entire class is a great experience, she always has a special place in her heart for “You Are My Sunshine,” a tune Adams would often sing to her and her brother when they were children.

“Words don’t come to my mom any more like they used to, but the words to familiar songs do.”

Vickie Price

“A lot of times I leave here with tears in my eyes,” Price said. “Attending the classes allows me to spend quality time with my mom without actually having to speak. Words don’t come to my mom any more like they used to, but the words to familiar songs do.”

Joyful Melodies music classes are held at The Hearth at Prestwick, Rosegate and The Hearth at Tudor Gardens on Mondays. To learn more and to register children for the class, visit makejoyfulmelodies.com.

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Contact Pulliam Fellow Emily Sabens at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @emilysabens.

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