Healing the Soul Through Rhythm and Sound

It’s no secret that the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home in Omaha, Nebraska is known in the community for its engaging activity programming, both in variation and abundance. Community members, family members, staff, and Residents, have come together for years at these diverse and stimulating events, but in winter of 2016, RBJH set that bar even higher.

In February of 2016, Maggie Conti, Director of Activities and Outreach, brought internationally known composer and performing artist, Michael Fitzsimmons to RBJH as an artist-in-residency. Michael Fitzsimmons teaches, performs and composes all around the globe, using drums and a variety of other percussion instruments from around the world. Mr. Fitzsimmons facilitated a week-long percussion workshop, pairing Residents and students in the 5th and 6th grades from Friedel Jewish Academy. The daily workshops then culminated in a grand finale concert with both Residents and students showcasing their newly found talents together. The goal was to not only create friendships from the intergenerational partnering but to improve the mental and emotional well-being of our Residents through music. No one was prepared for the profound effect all this had on a few of our most physically and emotionally challenged Residents.

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Michael Fitzsimmons kicked off the week with an amazing percussion performance at the Jewish Community Center called Drums of the World, incorporating a variety of instruments from other countries and cultures, explaining each one as he went. In the days that followed, workshop participants got to create their own instruments and practice using them. Each day Residents and students worked on their parts together and we watched as the workshops grew in number and word spread. Soon staff began witnessing Residents appear, that rarely if ever, participated in these types of events. Not only were they attending the workshops – they were having the time of their lives.  There was something magical about keeping that beat and banging on their homemade instruments that was bringing them to life. The energy from the students and Michael himself was truly contagious. These boisterous daily drum circles were a site many of us will not forget.

Our busy and imaginative Activities Directors continue to look for new ways to inspire, engage, and maximize the quality of life for our Residents.  With the success of the percussion workshop, we will definitely repeat this program and it has opened the gateway for others like it to be presented here at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home in the future.

This amazing program was made possible in part by a grant from Esther K. Newman Fund.



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