Jude Jones fell in love with performing music when she was a little girl. She started with piano lessons at age seven and went on to play violin and guitar throughout adolescence and adulthood. When a friend steered her toward music therapy, Jude felt like she was right where she belonged.
“I became fascinated with the notion that there was a profession which would enable me to use music to help others,” she said.
Jude’s first job was as a recreational therapist on the psychiatric floor of a general hospital. She took her mother’s advice and persevered in selling the facility on the healing power of music. Her persistence paid off. After a few years, Jude’s job title changed to music therapist.
Building connections within the healthcare community led her to Cedar Village in 2006, where she started playing music for the Jewish prayer gatherings on Friday evenings and meeting with residents one-on-one for a few hours a month. In the same way she expanded her role at the general hospital, Jude is now serving the community for 20 hours a week.
Jude starts her weekly music therapy sessions at Cedar Village with a “familiar greeting song” or physical activity set to music.
“I then engage and empower residents in the creative, therapeutic process of singing, dancing, instrument playing, problem solving, decision-making and socializing,” she said. “Many meetings trigger reminiscing and expression. When appropriate, I provide an opportunity for group members to share their feelings and thoughts in a safe and trusting environment if they are inclined to do so.”
Studies show that music is particularly helpful for people with dementia in terms of boosting brain activity, bringing back memories and stimulating positive interactions with fellow listeners.
A session with Jude is a music-lover’s paradise. She has guitars, pianos, portable keyboards, drum kits, tambourines, maracas and more at her disposal. These instruments also come in handy for the community’s annual play, which Jude writes every year with her husband.
This year’s show — Cedar Village’s sixth annual production — is a musical comedy called “Bitty City.” It follows a woman named Ida whose home in Youngstown, Ohio is bulldozed to make way for a new shopping mall. When Ida moves to Bitty City, Nevada, the welcoming committee presents many different ideas to make her part of the community, but she still feels homesick and nostalgic for her past. Of course, with a little help from her neighbors, Ida opens herself up to a happy new chapter in her life. This is a story that should prove to be particularly relatable to new residents who now comfortably call Cedar Village home.
Residents will perform the play on June 26 and 27. Each year, dozens of them participate in acting, singing and designing the set. This is a testament to the uniting power of music, which inspires Jude every day.
“Music brings out many ‘aha moments’ in myself and the residents,” she said. “This never gets boring. It’s always creative, challenging and fun.”