Tips for Creating Singing Experiences at Home

Ruthie and Debbie presented information about Side by Side Singing at the Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s conference in Arden, North

Ruthie Rosauer (left) and Debbie Nordeen, facilitators of Side by Side

Ruthie Rosauer (left) and Debbie Nordeen, facilitators of Side by Side

Carolina on October 23, 2014. We told them how good singing was for healthy aging and gave them a taste of a Side by Side sessions. But recognizing that there isn’t always a Side by Side Singing session handy, we also prepared a hand-out with ideas for incorporating music into your everyday life — especially helpful for those who have cognitive disorders.

Here are the suggestions:

1) Play CDs of your loved one’s favorite songs by favorite artists so she/he can join in singing.

2) Create a lyrics notebook of favorite songs by downloading free lyrics.

3) Install free pandora internet radio on your computer or roku tv device. Pandora offers hundreds of choices.

4) Sing along with YouTube videos by searching favorite artists or old shows such as the Lawrence Welk or Andy Williams show. You can also search for specific songs.

5) Buy the singer’s editions of Volumes 1 and 2 of “Get America Singing Again” by Hal Leonard. The singer’s edition small books are only $4 each on Amazon. If you are over 50 years old and grew up in the USA chances are good that you will know all the songs. Songs include favorites such as: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad and Oh! What A Beautiful Morning. (This is not an ad! We just love these books.)

6) If your loved one played an instrument in younger years, get it out, dust it off and encourage him or her to play it again.

7) Play the “Lyrics Relay Game.” It goes like this, you sing “Oh we ain’t got a barrel of — ” and pause for the other person to fill in the missing word. He will sing, “Money, maybe we’re —-” then YOU to fill in a word and keep singing. Keep tossing the song back and forth like a football.

8) Whistle while you work (or hum if you can’t whistle).

9) Dance together to favorite music.

10) Play the “Opera Game.” Instead of speaking to each other SING to each other in wildly dramatic ways as if you were in an opera. “What are we having for SUPPER TONIGHT???” “We are having (dramatic pause) macaroni, macaroni, roni, ro-NIIIIII” You get the idea!

11) Buy an iPod and install your loved one’s favorite music.

Caregiver Conference in Arden, NC on October 23

There will be SINGING at the Mountain Area Caregiver Conference in Arden, NC. The Alzheimer’s Association is presenting “A Journey in Dementia Care” at the Biltmore Baptist Church, 25 Clayton Road, Arden, NC 28704. There will be speakers on a variety of topics relating to living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.

DSC01151Debbie Nordeen and Ruthie Rosauer, co-facilitators of Side by Side Singing, will give two breakout sessions — both about Side by Side Singing. Other topics are “Pathways to a World without Alzheimer’s Disease: Treatment and Prevention Strategies” (Dr. Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, Duke University), “Grief and Loss,” “Show Me the Money: Paying for Your Health Care Needs” (Amy Smialowicz Fowler), “Meet Me Where I Am,” (Mary Ann Drummond, Carillon Assisted Living) and “Advocacy and Action in NC” ( Scott Herrick, Director of Public Policy, Alzheimer’s Association). To register call 800-272-3900. Cost is $10 for family caregivers and $25 for professionals.

The conference is on Thursday, October 23, 2014 from 8am – 2pm. Continuing Education house will be provided for social workers, nursing home and adult care administrators, and CNAs.

Instruments in the Side by Side Mix

Those of you who have attended Side by Side Singing will remember the glee with which we play rhythm instruments of all DSC02210sorts, especially the tamborines.  We really get going on “This Little Light of Mine.” Jan Mallindine has accompanied us on the guitar many times on that song. We’ve also really enjoyed Jan playing favorites such as “This Land is My Land,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Debbie Nordeen and Ruthie Rosauer trade off on the piano. We’ve had drums from time to time — most memorably on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The last two Side By Side sessions in the Hendersonville location found Ruthie on the clarinet for Yo Lisa Goy (aka The Vine and Fig Tree), I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Those Were the Days (which we have re-written slightly to be THESE Are the Days), and the Hebrew round Shalom Chevarim. We also added a new song to our repertoire from Fiddler on the Roof — “Sunrise, Sunset.” The clarinet can embellish the melody line — or help carry the melody to free up singers to explore possible harmony lines to add to the joyful sound we make together.

Ruthie Rosauer on clarinet (on left) and Debbie Nordeen on piano for group singing Sunrise, Sunset.

Ruthie Rosauer plays clarinet (on left) and Debbie Nordeen on piano for group singing of Sunrise, Sunset.

Side by Side for the Holidays

We are pleased to announce there will be two Side by Side Singing sessions in December 2014. These sessions will be on Wednesday, December 10 and Wednesday, December 17. Both at 1:30 and both at the Carillon, 3851 Howard Gap Road, DSC02217Hendersonville, 28792. These sessions will include music from our regular Side by Side songbooks as well as well-known Christmas songs.

The sessions are free. You need not be an experienced singer to participate fully. The building is handicap accessible. Parking is free. In case of questionable weather, please check back on this website on the day of the session OR call 828-693-0700.

We look forward to singing with you in December.

Adding another session — October 1, 2014


The sign-in desk at Side by Side Singing in Hendersonville. From left: Roxana White, Barbara Eck, Ruthie Rosauer, Jean Tuech.

The sign-in desk at Side by Side Singing in Hendersonville. From left: Roxana White, Barbara Eck, Ruthie Rosauer, Jean Tuech.


Singing during Side by Side sessions in Hendersonville has been enthusiastic and joyful. Originally planned for six sessions, we have decided to add an extra session to this series — we will now be singing on OCTOBER 1, 2014 as well.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville has been a wonderful host providing volunteers, space and refreshments. Located at the corner of Price Road and Kanuga Road in Hendersonville the parking is easy and the building is handicap-accessible. The NC Center for Health and Wellness UNC-Asheville continues to provide sponsorship.

From left: Ruthie Rosauer, Debbie Nordeen, Beth Mallindine, Jan Mallindine.

From left: Ruthie Rosauer, Debbie Nordeen, Beth Mallindine, Jan Mallindine.

Ruthie and Debbie play the piano, Jan Mallindine plays the guitar and the participants provide the vocals and rhythm section on such lively songs as “Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “This Little Light of Mine.”

Sessions are at 1:30 on Wednesdays through October 1. As one of our volunteers commented, “I must say you and Debbie have done a wonderful job with the group. I’ve never seen anyone get so much sound out of any group as you all have.” Those living with memory loss, Parkinson’s Disease, as well as their family and friends are invited to join this community singing initiative.


WOW — Sixty Singers Attended Side by Side’s Launch in Hendersonville!

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville hosted the first Side by Side session in Hendersonville, NC on August 20, 2014. And what a time we had! Debbie Nordeen and Ruthie Rosauer swtiched off between piano and song leading. Jan Mallindine played “This Land is Your Land” and “This Little Light of Mine” on the guitar. Katherine Price kindly sat in on the piano for “Climb Every Mountain.” 

Sixty singers sang with great gusto old favorites such as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Oh What A Beautiful Morning,” and “Sentimental Journey.” We also learned a new song, “I Will Carry You,” written by Lyte Henrickson. We sang in rounds, we sang in harmony, we sang in joy! If you missed the first session you are very welcome to join us for the next session — August 27 at 1:30. Delicious refreshments follow the singing to enhance our social time!

The event is sponsored by the NC Center for Health and Wellness. 

Article about Side by Side in Hendersonville Times-News

Duo use the power of song to help with healing

Ruthie Rosauer (on left) and Debbie Nordeen - facilitators

Ruthie Rosauer (on left) and Debbie Nordeen – facilitators

Debbie Nordeen, right, and Ruthie Rosauer are facilitators of Side By Side Singing.

Photo provided
By Gina Malone
Times-News correspondent
Published: Friday, August 15, 2014 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 11:44 p.m.
For those who have lost pieces of their past or had their voices diminished by disease, making “joyful noises” may be beneficial. That’s what Ruthie Rosauer and Debbie Nordeen, facilitators of Side By Side Singing, believe.

This new group-singing initiative sponsored by the N.C. Center for Health and Wellness has held two programs in Asheville, and will hold its first six-week program in Hendersonville starting Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Nordeen and Rosauer call their singing sessions “soul food for the brain.” Nordeen majored in music education, and has taught voice, directed choirs and performed in musical theatre for the last 25 years. She is the artistic director for Womansong of Asheville, a women’s community chorus. She began researching singing programs for those with cognitive challenges in 2012 after hearing about a choir made up of Parkinson’s patients.

“I decided I’d like to be a part of a movement to create positive experiences for our aging population,” Nordeen said, “and to help reduce social stigma for those living with cognitive disorders. With my background as a choral director, I naturally couldn’t think of anything more powerful than singing together, because singing takes place in the now. Music is magical that way.”

Retired from careers as an editor, economist and attorney, Rosauer says music is not just about making beautiful sounds.

“It can have therapeutic value,” she said.

She plays clarinet with the Hendersonville Community Band and sings with Womansong. Her volunteer time with a musical therapist in a hospital setting led to an interest in how singing might help people with short-term memory loss, such as that which can occur with dementia, Alzheimer’s and brain injuries. Since then she has done research on the many ways singing is beneficial to everyone’s health.

Just about anyone can sing, Rosauer said, though many think they cannot. Studies show benefits such as the increase of antibodies and the anti-stress hormone hydrocortisone, decreased instances of depression, slowed heart rates and feelings of relaxation.

For those with dementia, additional benefits include short-term memory improvement, increased positive moods and improved sociability. And, because participants in these sessions are required to be accompanied by a care partner, Rosauer has been delighted by the unexpected joy many of those caregivers express at singing “side by side” with their loved one.

One caregiver said, “This experience has been something new that we can share together as a couple, and that means the world to me.” Another said that a loved one who had not spoken much in the days before the singing session “sang every word in every song.”

Sessions in Hendersonville will be open to another group of participants — those with Parkinson’s disease. One effect of Parkinson’s may be a stiffening of vocal chords. As a result, “voices get soft, speech gets slurred,” Rosauer said, and tones may become flattened. Studies suggest that singing helps with volume, pitch, diction, vocal speed and posture.

As Rosauer puts it, “Deliberate variation of dynamic range will be incorporated … to help those with Parkinson’s improve their vocal control.”

Vocal warm-ups and musical ice-breakers start each session. Lyrics are provided for the rounds and well-known songs that follow. The growing song list contains ones that participants most likely heard while in their teens and 20s.

“These are the songs they resonate with,” Rosauer said. There are familiar popular tunes such as “As Time Goes By” and “Embraceable You,” as well as hymns and folk and patriotic songs.

The singing lasts about an hour, Rosauer said, though often calls for “just one more” cause things to run over a bit. At the end, “while they’re all feeling good and positive,” she said, they hold a social time with refreshments for about 20 minutes.

Rosauer said that “over a dozen volunteers … have helped make Side by Side the delightful experience it is,” not only by helping with tasks such as sign-ins and handing out music, “but just as importantly by adding their voices to the singing.”

“The results have been amazing,” Nordeen said. “Many participants have remarked that Side By Side Singing is a high point in their week.” She and Rosauer are now working on a how-to guide for people wishing to start singing groups in their areas.

Sessions in Asheville generally drew 45 to 50 people. The sanctuary at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville will hold many more if necessary. “The Unitarian congregation has been unbelievable,” Rosauer said, providing not only space but extra volunteers and refreshments.

Weekly sessions, lasting from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m., are free and require no pre-registration. They will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 2021 Kanuga Road. Parking is free and the sanctuary is wheelchair-accessible.

No singing experience or music-reading ability is required. Participants must be accompanied by a care partner.

For more information, contact Ruthie Rosauer at 715-797-2260, or visit