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Keeping the Beat


Keeping the Beat
Healthy Aging Through Amateur Chamber Music Playing

Ada P. Kahn, Ph.D.

copyright © 1999 by Ada P. Kahn

ISBN:
0-930121-01-5 (paperbound)
0-930121-02-3 (hardbound)

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-90765

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For years, medical professionals have been investigating the potential of music to facilitate wellness, improve communication and listening skills, and provide a multitude of other benefits. Notwithstanding, few people look upon music and say, “Hey, now that’s a good way for me to ensure a healthier life!”
 
Dr. Ada P. Kahn would like for you to say precisely that when picking up a clarinet, violin, a cello, or whatever else you prefer.
 
Kahn’s book, Keeping The Beat: Healthy Aging Through Amateur Chamber Music, is a straightforward endorsement of the vast list of benefits experienced by a mature adult while making music, emphasizing its social and creative benefits. 
                                                     Making Music, March-April, 2006

Dr. Ada P. Kahn, a health educator and author of the award-winning STRESS A-Z, suggests we celebrate aging by participating in musical activities. Kahn feels chamber music is particularly suited for healthy aging. ...This book, by a fellow member of the American Medical Writers Association, was a delight to read and brought back fond memories of some of my university friends who received degrees in music. Ada has another winner from which our patients can benefit.

Sacramento Medicine, July/August, 2000

Rotarian Kahn's book features profiles of 24 older men and women. Throughout, the author emphasizes the social aspects of music making. Many older adults, she notes, face major changes, including the loss of loved ones or retirement and relocation. Musical participation sparks new friendships based on a common interest - chamber music, the music of friends.

The Rotarian, November, 2000

Of Sound Mind and Body ...
New book notes that chamber music playing has healing properties.

Excerpts from a review by Christine Landen published in Vital Times, January, 2000

Playing the flute since high school, Kahn performs chamber music with the Music Institute of Chicago's Emeritus Orchestra. She has blended her vocation as an author with her musical avocation.

# # #

Kahn believes that any activity which challenges the mind and helps maintain dexterity is good for older adults. Ceramics, painting and various forms of physical activity are typical hobbies and interests cited by older adults. The critical element that Kahn discovered that sets chamber music apart from these individual activities is the social dimension.

The chance to develop social connections and strong, lasting ties are common reasons why Kahn's subjects took up chamber music.

# # #

Playing any instrument demands both physical and mental involvement. Upper-body strength, lung capacity and mental concentration often come into play. Memory and rapid response time are required, as musicians are literally reacting with each other. They must watch each other while playing, both physically and mentally.

Another benefit of musicianship is its portability. Relocation often accompanies retirement, but being able to connect with a musical group provides a new circle of friends.

# # #

Kahn observes that chamber music players share a sense of responsibility. Foremost is to show up for rehearsals and performances. "That is not always easy," Kahn writes. Bad weather, pain or many other factors can get in the way.

"If you are part of a trio, there is no trio when one does not show," Kahn writes. Each person must play his or her part well, so that means everyone must practice. Setting and then attaining goals helps to keep musicians motivated. "When they feel good about themselves, they have a good time," the author reflects.

Keeping the Beat is an encouragement to all of us not-so-young amateur musicians!

—Jane Wilson, Chairman, Amateur Chamber Music Players

A chamber music ensemble ... is a little realm whose members share a goal ... know they are needed ... their zest for new challenges should inspire all who love making music!

—Ted Rust, Publisher, Music For the Love Of It

Musicians in tune with aging
Excerpts from a review by Beata M. Hayton published in Life Times, Volume XIV, Number 12

If you think chamber music is always performed by small groups of men in tuxedos, you've been missing something.

In Keeping the Beat you will meet older amateur chamber music players and some professional musicians who coach and teach older players.

They are an engaging group. There was the woman who paid her way through college playing the trumpet in dance bands. There was the violinist who practiced medicine as a way to make a living. Now retired from practice, he still plays the violin at restaurants and parties.

Ada Kahn, an award-winning writer on mental and physical health, plays the flute with amateur chamber music players, some of whom appear in this book.

# # #

"We all make mistakes," one man says. "Nobody scolds. We cheer if somebody gets a good solo line."

These older musicians have their share of the physical problems that come with aging. Some wear hearing aids, some have to adjust their playing to compensate for arthritic fingers, some wear special glasses.

"You adapt," an older player says. "You say to yourself, if I can't play that phrase the way it's written, then I will find a reasonable place to change it. Take more breaths than it calls for."

# # #

And Ms. Kahn also found a sense of achievement among the musicians she studied that she concludes comes with meeting the challenge of new music and then in learning to play it better and better. That feeling of competence and accomplishment, one musician says, "is fulfilling like a second career."

Keeping the Beat reveals the fascinating world of amateur chamber music as performed by older adults ... a true, moving, well-written and most absorbing book.

—Theodore Baumgold, Coordinator, Senior Adult Chamber Players, 92nd Street Y, New York City

Play Bach, Live Longer
from North Shore Magazine, Volume 22, Number 10

As retirement approaches, the pressure to get healthy heats up. Watch the salt. Get more calcium. Take brisk walks. Ditch the cigarettes.

And may we add one more piece of advice? Pick up a flute.

Evanston-based medical writer Ada Kahn recently wrote a book on the therapeutic benefits of playing music well past retirement age. The title—Keeping the Beat: Healthy Aging Through Amateur Chamber Music Playing—sounds a little clunky, but the premise is straight-forward enough: research shows that people who play music in a group are more focused, enthusiastic and vigorous as they age.

Kahn interviewed amateur musicians across the country, all between the ages of 67 and 94, as well as professionals who coach or play with older amateurs. Among her interviewees is Morita Bailey, who started taking cello lessons when she was 50. "Players are always learning," she says. "They look forward, not backward. There is emphasis on continuous development and striving to do better at the next rehearsal or next performance and finding that growth is possible at an older age."

That's music to our aging ears.

In the words of older amateur players and professional musicians who coach them, Kahn describes how creative expression—practice, rehearsal, and performance—is exhilarating for older persons, even as they cope with sensory changes. Interviewees speak of creativity and spirituality as well as enhanced listening and personal communication skills. Enjoy the humor expressed by older players in Keeping the Beat as they adapt to life’s changes.

—Marylen Mann, President, The OASIS Institute


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