New Orleans’ Carnival season offers entertainment for all ages at our Mardi Gras parades, recognized world-wide for their elaborate, creative and clever themes. While I’m mesmerized by the artistic craftsmanship and labor that go into producing floats for a parade, the reason I clamor for the perfect spot on the sidewalk is the marching bands. There is something about the pounding drum beat I feel deep in my stomach and the contagious melodies of the brass sections that gives me goose bumps. As each band passes by, I smile watching friends and strangers around me unite for a brief moment with joy and gratitude for the music enveloping us.

Music can make us generally happier people, and it provides a multitude of additional health benefits. A 15-week music therapy program launched in September 2016 through a unique community partnership between Poydras Home and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra combines each organization’s talents to benefit seniors. Expanding the successful Soul Strings music therapy-informed program currently serving students and adults with developmental disabilities, this new program, Soul Strings for Seniors: Musical Memories, provides sensory and intellectual stimulation to an enthusiastic group of Poydras Home residents through exposure to creative culture.

LPO Director of Philanthropy Mimi Kruger explains, “Thanks to Whitney Bank, Soul Strings for Seniors: Musical Memories has been designed to engage those Poydras Home residents who have an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.” Founded in 1817, Poydras Home works to respect and preserve the dignity of the human spirit among the elderly by continuing legacy care through quality supportive services for the elderly, promoting understanding for their particular needs and advocating on their behalf.

A smile of recognition upon hearing a familiar tune can often be the catalyst necessary to produce conversation starters, and enhanced memory and mood elevation for seniors. Each session with the 13 to 17 Poydras Home residents focuses on a variety of specifically targeted activities that increase the quality of life and functional skill sets of seniors in need of memory care. Poydras Home Vice President of Resident Affairs Erin Kolb notes, “The LPO musicians are working with a licensed music therapist in sessions that complement and reinforce therapy goals such as improving communication, memory and attention skills. The intimate setting with small groups of our residents allows the LPO musicians to extend their talents into a new direction impacting wellness as they reach members of our resident population who can find traditional modes of communication to be difficult.”

In addition to the weekly workshops, which family members are encouraged to attend, Poydras Home participants are also invited to attend a number of open rehearsals of the full LPO. Residents’ families appreciate the meaningful and uplifting interaction in addition to the behavioral and social long-term benefits experienced by their loved ones.

“Poydras Home’s long history of mission-driven dedication to provide expert level memory support to all residents affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias make us ideal candidates to populate this innovative program with the LPO,” says Poydras Home CEO Jay Rive. “We are proud participants in this enriching music therapy endeavor that can broaden the depth of positive life experience for our residents.”

While both organizations are hopeful the program will continue into the fall, Soul Strings for Seniors: Musical Memories has already greatly brightened the lives of seniors and their families in New Orleans.

A little more …

The LPO ( offers a 36-week season with more than 120 performances in New Orleans and across multi-parish areas. It is the oldest full-time musician-governed and collaboratively operated orchestra in the U.S.