Music brings generations together

By Joe Stumpe
“Rosy cheeks!”
“I want to see this little baby better!”
“I’m telling you, she’s going to be a drummer!”
When some young children come to make music for residents of the Caritas Nursing Center, they definitely find a receptive audience. In fact, most of the residents – who are Catholic Sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ order – sing and clap along.
The children, none older than five, are part of Riverside Music Together, which is affiliated with an international early childhood music program. The Music Together program is usually built around 45-minute classes in which children and their parents or caregivers sing, dance, play simple percussion instruments and generally have a great time. The idea is that the children develop much more than just music skills during the sessions.
At the request of Caritas Nursing Center, Erin Flory Robertson, energetic director of Riverside Music Together, has been bringing one of her classes there each week. Founded in Italy in 1834, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ came to Wichita in 1902 and in 1933 started Sacred Heart Junior College, which became Newman University. Their ministry includes education and helping the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
On a chilly Monday morning in February, a half-dozen casually dressed young mothers and their children took part with about the same number of active, semi-active and retired sisters.
They sang the “Hello” song, as in “Hello, Sister Marie, so glad to see you.” They sang the“Wiggle Your Finger” songs, persuading most of the sisters to do just that. They sang the“Hi Ho!” song, danced with scarves and then broke out a bag filled with drums, tambourines, maracas and all manner of noise-makers.
“This is our most favorite moment,” one of the sisters said with a grin.
Although most of the sisters are content to sing and tap their feet from their chairs, Robertson said, “Some are able to get up and boogie with us.”
About the time it looks like a few of the younger children and older sisters may be ready for a nap, it’s time for the “Goodbye, so long, farewell” song.
Susan Tuwey, who is director of nursing at Caritas as well as a Music Together parent, said everybody present – kids, moms and residents – gets something out of the sessions.
“I like the community and the relationship it builds with seniors,” she said. “Our kids don’t have their grandparents here. And it allows us to be silly.”
Sister Diane Rawlings said most of her colleagues “spent their whole lives as teachers and professional educators,” surrounded by children.
“This really gives them a chance to remember and reconnect.”

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