Music students sing with memory loss patients

By Chelsea Weeks, Assistant Features Editor 

Dr. Kathy Scherler comforts a patient at the Oklahoma Baptist Village. / Courtesy Photo


Music is often seen as an outlet, or encouraging or calming. Yet to Assistant Professor of Music Education, Kathy Scherler, it is seen as the bridge to humanity.

Over the course of the semester, several students from Oklahoma Baptist University will be traveling to the Baptist Village Home in Oklahoma City to sing songs and play music for residents who struggle with Dementia and Alzheimer’s and work with them through the Music and Memory program.

February 23, March 7, April 6 and May 4 from 4 pm-7 pm, students will meet behind Raley, load up in a van and travel to the Baptist Village Home.

Upon arrival, students will play music and sing for the residents. Later in the evening, students will pair up with a resident and show them how to use an iPod that has personalized playlists with music they grew up listening to.

“What really is meaningful is the human contact and how the music reminds them of their most beautiful memories,” Scherler said.

This idea of becoming involved at Baptist Village Home was based on the need for music education majors to see the benefits of pre-music therapy activities, yet has become a way to bless others and grow.

“My main reason for starting the Music and Memory project with our OBU music education students is that I was looking for a service learning project for our students,” Scherler said. “I believe very strongly that service learning is an important part of the university education. While we are here in this college setting, increasing our intellectual capacity, it is also important to develop our empathy and live out our OBU mission through sharing our knowledge with others.”

Scherler started the process by doing research on different programs that fuse music education and music therapy. She found a program, created by Dan Cohen, called Music and Memory which had an ongoing program at Baptist Village Community in Oklahoma City.

After getting in contact with Dr. Bill Pierce, president of Baptist Village Communities, she was able to create a service learning opportunity that gets OBU students involved.

“We are going to be working to continue this wonderful program of music that helps those with dementia or Alzheimer’s to increase their memory and enable them to have a more enriched quality of life,” Scherler said.

Courtesy Photo

The goal of this service opportunity is to not only provide a way for students to see the benefits of music, but also to help residents in their communication skills.

“Executive Director of Music and Memory, Dan Cohen, founded the organization in order to awaken memories that may be stimulated by music familiar to residents of places such as the Baptist Village Home,” Eric Yoder, senior vocal music education major, said.

“The familiar music has a calming effect upon the brain and can bring people suffering from challenges in cognitive function to a better awareness with the world that they are losing connections to physically, emotionally, and socially,” he said.  

“This can be used to soothe residents, awaken them enough to eat at mealtime, and to help them become more engaged in conversation with others,” he continued.

“One of the most important things is that it partners caring students willing to share time with these residents who, in many cases, may not be receiving the rich blessing of attention that they deserve in the later stages of their lives.”

Cole Harris, a freshman and member of the Glee Club, explained why he got involved.

“This seems like a good opportunity to help people out. I have memory problems and music helps me remember things.”

Whether it’s to help others or get involved, this is an opportunity that is available through the whole semester, he said.

“In service learning we give, but also learn at the same time. We are increasing the body of knowledge by either participating in research, gifting our time or doing something to make our community a better place,” Scherler said.

This service opportunity is open to anyone interested. Students do not have to be music majors or performers.

Contact Dr. Kathy Scherler at or Eric Yoder at for more information about the Music and Memory program or how to sign up and make a difference in someone’s life.

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