From left: Megan Keene

New singing and drama program coming to Parksville

Designed to help strengthen vocal chords of people with Parkinson's, stroke survivors, people with other neurological disorders and aging

Megan Keene, Sharon Tomczyk and Hugh Yardley are hoping to make music more accessible for everyone, including people whose voices have been affected by Parkinson’s, stroke, other neurological disorders and aging.

“Our mandates for our own businesses is we want music to be accessible to everybody,” Yardley said. “We love music, it’s our lives. The more that we can help people, through our music or through music programs, the better. Music has so many healing properties. It’s endless how much and what we can do with music.”

Keene, Tomczyk and Yardley recently became certified by the SongShine Foundation to teach classes which combine vocal exercises, singing, body awareness and relaxation, breath exercises, creative imagination, emotional expression and drama to strengthen voices, build community and lift spirits.

Yardley said as people get older, their voices diminish.

“It’s also a way for people who are getting older in the community to reconnect with their brains and their voices,” Yardley said.

The SongShine Foundation started about nine years ago in the United States by Ruthanna Metzgar, according to Yardley. Yardley said Metzgar has a doctorate in music.

Tomczyk said the program was originally developed through the Eisenhower Medical Center in California with the Traub Parkinson’s Center.

“It’s not to replace speech therapy or music therapy that’s offered by trained music therapists or trained speech therapists in the community,” Tomczyk said, who has worked in healthcare for the past 25 years. “It’s to fill the spaces. A lot of time, speech therapists are hard to access and they don’t necessarily provide a social outlet for people.”

Tomczyk said she can see there’s a demand for this kind of program here because there’s nothing else like it in the aging community.

“There’s definitely a lacking of access to services here because we’re not a big city, so we don’t have the speech pathologists or the speech therapists. We just don’t have access to them here and so a lot of people that live out in Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Qualicum Bay, there’s nowhere for them to go to get help,” Tomczyk said.

This is the first SongShine program on Vancouver Island, and Keene said they’re hoping to do more than just the 10-week program.

“It will really depend on the response of this community and that we’re looking to do programs outside of Parksville/Qualicum since there’s nothing else on the Island. We might go to Port Alberni or Courtenay or Nanaimo if there ends up being enough,” said Keene, adding that other communities are welcome to contact them and set up more programs.

The 10-week program starts June 15 and runs every Wednesday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Fluid Fitness Studio (1176 Franklins Gull Rd., Parksville). The program is $100 for the entire 10 weeks and caregivers attend for free.

To register or find out more information, visit wwwsongshinevi.org or call Yardley at 250-927-2452.

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