Hearing Detroit with American House

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By: Bryn Bliska, MIT Media Lab

Photos by: Rebecca Kleinberger, MIT Media Lab

Bryn Bliska is a Master’s student and Research Assistant in the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab. She is excited to be facilitating collaboration between the Opera of the Future team, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and many amazing Detroit residents and community institutions for Symphony in D.

We recently returned from another amazing visit to Detroit – my fifth time in the city over the past six months. As Symphony in D has developed, I’ve met a huge range of inspiring people. One of the partner organizations that I’ve most enjoyed collaborating with is American House, a collection of senior living communities across the state of Michigan with several locations in the Detroit metropolitan area. We were first approached by three women on the American House team – Kristen Keller, Angie Kadowaki and Veronica Fiegel – back in November at Symphony in D’s official press launch. They were excited at the prospect of getting their residents involved, and we were equally excited at the opportunity to learn about Detroit from some of the people that know it best: those that have spent decades, if not their entire lives, calling it their home. After some dialogue and brainstorming, we landed upon a wonderful idea for our collaboration that has unfolded in a very powerful way over the ensuing months.

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During the early part of 2015, the American House team worked with their residents to collectively generate lists of unique historic sounds of Detroit. We were introduced to so many sounds we might never have otherwise come across that speak to Detroit’s rich and complex culture: the voice of legendary Detroit Tigers sportscaster Ernie Harwell; the implosion of the famed Hudson’sdepartment store building in 1998; and the popping noise that marks the opening of a jar of Sanders Fudge, to name just a few. In February, Tod and I then had the chance to sit down with about a dozen residents from different American House communities to review these incredible lists. Hearing first-hand about the personal meanings embedded in each of these sounds, I was moved by the passion with which everybody spoke about their city, and their memories truly deepened my appreciation for Detroit. The residents’ openness and generosity in sharing their stories with us is representative of the great hospitality and kindness that so many other Detroiters have extended to all of us from the Opera of the Future team.

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After this wonderful discussion, the American House team proposed a perfect culminating event for this phase of our partnership, which took place during our visit last week. Tod and I, as well as Opera of the Future graduate students Rebecca Kleinberger and Charles Holbrow, met a number of American House residents (including many familiar faces) at the Detroit Historical Museum. The American House residents and staff had synthesized their ideas of important historic sounds into a “Top 20” list, and had actually tracked down audio and video footage of each of these to share with us. Kristen gave a presentation of the items on this list, which included the whistle of the boat that used to carry Detroiters to their beloved Boblo Island Amusement Park (open from 1898 until 1993), the theme songs of Better Made chips and Faygo soda, and footage from the 1967 riot.

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Once again, we had the great fortune to hear individuals’ reflections on these sounds during the presentation, and also got to continue some of these conversations as we explored the museum afterward. Kristen, Angie and Veronica also bestowed upon us some very decadent, absolutely delicious Detroit-made goods, including all of the iconic foods we’d heard so much about. Tod, Charles, Rebecca and I all left the museum with our hands full, literally, as well as with our hearts full of gratitude for the people of American House and appreciation for the incredible city that we have felt so welcomed into. Through their creativity and dedication, the American House residents and staff have already brought so much to Symphony in D – and, personally, to my experience and understanding of Detroit. So to all of these wonderful people, and to the many others I’ve had the great fortune to interact with, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart! It is a pleasure and honor to work with you, and I am excited for what’s to come as Symphony in D continues to grow and take shape.

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Detroit Symphony Orchestra Brings Music to American House Residents’ Ears

i3_jvPUpwz_K5wkPrRDKzL3Fib5YzAILzgySvI5xcCoBeing able to experience the wonderful culture of the area — especially the Detroit Symphony Orchestra — is one of the great benefits of living at American House Senior Living Communities! We’re very proud to have deepened our partnership with the DSO to present 36 engagements in 2013 where musicians will perform for residents at more than 20 of our American House locations.

“We’re committed to enriching the lives of our senior citizens throughout the area,” said Rob Gillette, chief operating officer of American House. “Countless studies have shown the benefits of both music and a rich social life in older adults. We are confident this partnership will prove beneficial for both our seniors and the DSO musicians themselves.”

Each month, three American House communities will host the DSO sessions for residents. Three to four DSO musicians will play for one hour at the community and residents have the opportunity to talk to the musicians during a meet and greet afterward. American House sponsors the sessions so residents are able to enjoy the DSO free of charge.

DSO musicians will also present “Inspiration Days,” in which American House residents will learn more about these artists’ paths to becoming professional musicians, hear and watch them demonstrate their instruments and have the opportunity to ask questions.

DSO PERFORMS AT AMERICAN HOUSE

Here is a list of American House Senior Engagement locations, where the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians will perform. April and May locations have been confirmed, but look for DSO ensembles to visit your local American House throughout the coming year!

APRIL 2013

  • Sterling II: 2 p.m. Monday, April 8 at 33433 Schoenherr, Sterling Heights, MI 48312.
  • Baldwin House: 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 15 at 200 Chester, Birmingham, MI 48009.
  • Riverview: 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 22 at 20300 Fort St, Riverview, MI 48193.

MAY 2013

  • Carpenter: 2 p.m. Monday, May 13 at 3470 Carpenter Road, Ypsilanti, MI 48197
  • Hazel Park: 2:00 p.m. Monday, May 20 at 777 E. Woodward Heights, Hazel Park, MI 48030
  • Sterling I: 2:00 p.m. Friday, May 31 at 11255 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, MI 48312
  • **INSPIRATION DAYS: 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28 at Dearborn Heights: 26600 Ann Arbor Trail, Dearborn Heights, MI 48127

** “Inspiration Days” are visits where residents learn about the artists’ paths to becoming professional musicians, hear and watch them demonstrate their instruments and have the opportunity to ask questions.

For more information about the DSO partnership or the current performance schedule, please call (248)203-1800, or visit www.americanhouse.com
or www.dso.org.

American House and Detroit Symphony Orchestra Expand Partnership Into 2013

imagesPartnership to bring world-class musicians to over 20 American House communities

DETROIT – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and American House Senior Living Communities have announced plans to deepen their partnership, which will bring individual musicians and small ensembles from the orchestra to engage with residents at over 20 American House locations in the metro Detroit area throughout 2013. An extremely broad geographic area will be served, spanning Roseville to Westland and Riverview to Pontiac.

In the fall of 2011, the DSO launched its Neighborhood Residency Initiative (NRI), comprised of orchestra concerts, chamber music, educational and social service partnerships, and senior engagement programs focused in and around six metro Detroit communities: Beverly Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Dearborn, Grosse Pointe, Southfield, and West Bloomfield. In early 2012, a series of customized small ensemble performances were piloted at three American House locations in these communities. In 2013 over 20 of these concerts will be presented in and around these areas.

In addition to providing an intimate musical experience for American House residents, a growing body of research has concluded that music has therapeutic effects on older adults, including: strengthened memory and cognitive function, chronic pain management, improvement in mood, and overall improvement in quality of life.

“We’re committed to enriching the lives of our senior citizens throughout the area,” said Rob Gillette, Chief Operating Officer of American House. “Countless studies have shown the benefits of both music and a rich social life in older adults. We are confident this partnership will prove beneficial for both our seniors and the DSO musicians themselves.”

This partnership is a collaborative initiative of the DSO’s Neighborhood Residency Initiative, and American House’s own life enrichment program, which is a holistic combination of rich experiences as wellness, including group outings, community exercises, and healthy food options. Music initiatives are becoming an increasing part of the culture at American House. In addition to this partnership, residents of American House formed a traveling choir in mid 2012, led by conductor Daniel Greig.

“At American House residences, we are able to deeply engage with music lovers that are unable to travel to performances,” said Kareem George, Detroit Symphony Orchestra Managing Director of Community Programs. “Our musicians are making personal connections with former decades-long subscribers as well as seniors new to classical music. We are so thankful to American House Senior Living Communities for this opportunity to provide a special service to our seniors.”

In addition to the tailored small ensemble performances, DSO musicians will present “Inspiration Days,” in which American House residents will learn more about these artists’ paths to becoming professional musicians, hear and watch them demonstrate their instruments, and have the opportunity to ask questions.

These programs will span across over 20 metro Detroit area American Houses, where the aim is to reach over 1,000 senior citizens and their families. The majority of these audiences would not otherwise be able to experience live classical music performances.

For more information about the partnership or current performance schedule, please call 248-203-1800, or visit www.americanhouse.com or www.dso.org.

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Founded over 30 years ago, American House Senior Living Communities provides the most rewarding life experiences for each and every resident. The company offers maintenance-free apartment and villa living, restaurant-style dining, activities, education, wellness, transportation, housekeeping, and third party medical and personal care services. By combining the independence seniors and their families want with the assistance they may need, American House has helped thousands transition into the next phase of their lives with ease. For more information, please visit www.americanhouse.com or call (248) 203-1800.

The internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in December 2012, is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and an unwavering commitment to Detroit. Esteemed conductor Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became the 12th Music Director of the DSO during the 2008-09 season and acclaimed conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik was appointed Principal Pops Conductor in November 2012. The DSO’s performance schedule includes Classical, Pops, Jazz, Young People’s, Neighborhood concerts, and collaborations with chart-topping musicians from Smokey Robinson to Kid Rock. A commitment to broadcast innovation began in 1922 when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, one of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, the DSO actively pursues a mission to impact and serve the community through music. For more information visit dso.org or download the free DSO to GO mobile app.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra Performs for Residents

Since 1887, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been performing to the delight of audiences at the Detroit Opera House, Orchestra Hall and venues (including Carnegie Hall!). And this year, residents at American House Senior Living Communities had the opportunity to experience an amazing performance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at home!

Approximately 75-100 residents attended recent Detroit Symphony Orchestra performances at the American House West Bloomfield and Southfield locations, enjoying the musical talents of string bassist Stephen Edwards in a private setting. Along with a pianist, Stephen Edwards performed a half-hour rendition of classical pieces while residents listened intently.

“It was very well-received by our residents,” said Fran Marable, American House Regional Director. “Many residents were former music teachers and one woman used to play in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra many years ago.”

Fran said bringing the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to American House was another way to bring value and community to residents’ homes and to continually enrich their lives.

“Music’s got the power to heal, it’s got the power to create memories, it’s got the power for enjoyment,” Fran said. “All of those things are important and it’s important for us to do things in which those various elements will be enjoyed by our residents.”

Kareem George, the managing director of community programs at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, agreed.

“We think it’s so important to give the largest cross-section of our community the opportunity to experience chamber music and the DSO in a very intimate setting,” Kareem said. “For seniors, sometimes it’s not possible for them to make it to a concert.”
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra launched its Neighborhood Residency Initiative in the fall of 2011, bringing chamber music concerts into the community at non-traditional venues.

Kareem said American House has been a great partner in the initiative, allowing the Detroit Symphony Orchestra the opportunity to perform some great concert work.

But really, the relationship has been a win-win for everyone — especially the residents.

American House residents enjoy so many varied activities and outings (including a trip to a concert at the Dearborn Ford and Community Arts Center!) that there’s never a dull moment. Wondering what other fun things are going on? Give us a call — or check us out on Facebook and Twitter — and we’ll fill you in!