A couple of weeks ago I had the privelege of working with June Bonacich, an educator with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, in a small group class to learn more about ‘sight singing,” a really important skill if you are a member of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus (as I am). We are an auditioned chorus, established 13 years ago, and are about 30 members, ranging in age from 22 to 92. Yes, that’s 92. Our Shirley from Brooklyn gets the best birthday cake each year! She also takes a dance class, and you can see her in the bottom right corner of the photo below.

Music is a unifying experience, it lifts the spirits, and most seniors together know quite a few songs from the same era. What June does is teach rhythm, scales, key signatures, ’the circle of fifths’ and other basic information that helps you start out on the right note when singing new or unfamiliar music. She has held workshops at lots of Senior Centers in the SF Bay Area.

What she’s learned is that the over-50 gang really enjoy making music together! She has a plethora of instruments, from many different cultures, including a tamborine, triangle, wood block, castanets, etc. We had a tremendous amount of fun just practicing tempo and beat using the little cymbal and some simple music annotation.

We learned it is NEVER too late to learn an instrument, be it guitar, piano, bass, violin. And I support that. Our class was 5 ladies, from 44-75.  We all came away from our 4 week session smarter and more secure in our singing. But the point of this post is that musical practice, learning a new instrument, or just singing along with friends, is one of the best ways to maintain flexibility and mental acuity as we age.  From Angie’s List contributor Jim Rupp, owner of Columbus Percussion in Ohio, is his reinforcement: “Music can excercise your mind, no matter what your age. Playing an instrument links the logical and creative sides of your brain…and helps keep seniors minds sharp!”

We are auditioning singers tonight and next Monday night at our weekly practice: 7:00 at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Geary + Franklin, if you’re ready to sharpen your mind!