Encore: Our Story


 The dream began to take shape  in September 2001, when the late internationally renowned gerontologist Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University, asked Jeanne Kelly to be part of a study on The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health and Social Functioning  of Older Adults.  The study would necessitate forming two chorales for older adults over 65 years of age to join forces with the Senior Singers' Chorale Jeanne already had up and running at Goodwin House, Alexandria under her older adult program at Levine School of Music Arlington Campus where she was the director. She quickly added Goodwin House Bailey's Crossroads in Falls Church, VA.

 Arlington County Lee Center became the third component of the chorale program and the first rehearsal was scheduled to take place on Sept. 11, 2001.  It was canceled because of the horrible terrorist attacks that day.  The next week brought in over 60 older adult singers! The rehearsals at all three locations were full of energy, excitement and a great choral sound. Combined, over 120 older adults actively participated in a choral program directed by a professional conductor.

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GWU-NEA Study Inspired Encore

In 2001, the National Endowment for The Arts , along with the National Institutes of Health and four other federal and nonfederal programs, sponsored landmark research known as The Creativity and Aging Study. The goal of this multisite national study taking place in three major cities across the United States (Washington, New York, and San Francisco) was to examine the impact of participatory art programs conducted by professional artists on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older persons. The primary investigator was the late Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at the George Washington University. This was the first study of its kind, using an experimental design with a control group over an extended period of time, examining the influence of active engagement in the arts on the overall health of older adults.

The study began in Washington, DC under the artistic direction of Conductor Jeanne Kelly, formerly of the Levine School of Music . The Washington, DC site focused on singing groups that joined together in a large chorale, while the other sites were engaged in a diversity of other art forms. The first results reported from the study were those from evaluating the chorale compared to a control matched in terms of activity level and health status at the start of the study.

Interestingly the average age of the chorale and the control group was 80-greater than life expectancy. Many had not sung or read music before, and were taught to do so by Jeanne Kelly, bringing them to a level of accomplishment that led to their being invited to sing at the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center .

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Jeanne Kelly, Founder and Artistic Director

jeanne_pub_webJEANNE KELLY'S career of over forty years has produced a unique blend of experience as a vocal performer, teacher, conductor and music administrator that has prepared her well to serve as the Founder and Artistic Director of Encore Creativity for Older Adults.

As a performer, Ms. Kelly made her professional operatic debut with the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center.  She has also performed major roles with the Baltimore Opera, Opera Delaware, Central City Opera, Tulsa Opera, Annapolis Opera, and the New York City Opera Education Department.  She appeared in the world premiere of Rappaccini's Daughter with the Pennsylvania Opera Theater.

In addition to having maintained a private voice studio in Maryland and Virginia, Ms. Kelly served on the faculties of the Levine School of Music, Washington, DC; Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; and the Baltimore School for the Arts.

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Mary Spencer, Executive Director

Mary Spencer-1In January 2016, Mary Spencer joined the Encore leadership team as Executive Director, serving alongside Founder and Artistic Director Jeanne Kelly.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation Programming and Administration from the University of Maryland and brings over 30 years of professional experience working to further the mission of various non-profits whose missions encourage the pursuit of personal growth and life-long learning.

Most recently, Mary has served as the Director of Advancement and member of the Senior Administrative Team for The Key School in Annapolis, Maryland, implementing the strategic plan for Key’s fundraising initiatives and garnering support for the school’s vision and mission. Since 2005, Mary has helped to raise over $12.5 million for the school’s Annual Fund, Endowment, and Capital Projects.

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Board President (Position Temporarily Vacant)

President Edward Johnson, who has ably served as Board President for approixmately two years had previously announced his resignation to be effective at the end of December 2015, has resigned for personal reasons. He will be missed. A new Board President will be elected soon. 

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About Encore

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Encore is dedicated to providing an excellent and accessible artistic environment for older adults, 55 and over, regardless of experience or ability, who seek arts education and performance opportunities under a professional artist. Encore is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax exempt organization.

All Encore programs are conducted by professional artists who will know how to get the most from their members. So come join the excitement, either as a beginner or at an advanced level. This is an excellent way to learn how to develop or improve your musical abilities, meet new friends, and look forward to an exciting performance schedule.

You’re never too old to try something new—and have the time of your life!