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.
Read more: Encore: Our Story
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 .
Read more: GWU-NEA Study Inspired Encore