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UW-Eau Claire students bring 'Music + Memories = Magic' group to local community

May 21, 2012

EAU CLAIRE — A group of social work students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is working on an initiative to bring music, memories and magic to local community members with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The group is collecting old, but functional iPods, along with over-the-ear headphones. The iPods will be programmed with songs that match each resident's lifelong music tastes.

"Social workers are committed to advocating for an enhanced quality of life for all people, and especially for populations with special needs," said Dr. Donald Mowry, professor of social work. "I was thrilled when this group of students did not hesitate to commit themselves to this 'Music + Memories = Magic' project, as it demonstrates that they have the value base that will enable them to become skilled and competent professionals."

The student group consists of sophomore Kristina Malec, Eau Claire, junior Jill Krieg, Menomonie, junior Timothy Shaw, Marshfield, sophomore Isaiah Draeger, Eau Claire, and sophomore Emily Miller, Chatfield, Minn. The students have collected 10 iPods so far and have written a grant for 20 headphones for the first phase of the project.

The students plan to continue their efforts to collect iPods again in the fall.

Malec said that the program is about helping the community, since so many individuals have a connection to someone with a long-term disease.

"I think the 'Music + Memories = Magic' project brings so much support from our peers and faculty because many people have a loved one in their lives who suffers from Alzheimer's or dementia. So in a way, we're not doing this to just help the individual, we're doing this to help a family and a community."

Draeger said the issue is very personal for him, and the inclusion of music is what makes the initiative so special.

"The very sight of seeing a person's eyes light up and produce a smile because of exposure to music is a heart-felt renewal of their past joys," Draeger said. "Music truly is a universal language, and our hope is to foster some joy and hope for people with dementia and their families. We also want to raise awareness of dementia in our community and for dementia caregivers; we want them to know that people really do care about their wellbeing."

Miller volunteers at a nursing home and feels that music is a simple addition that can make a difference in the lives of residents. She hopes bringing the program to Eau Claire can help it spread even more.

"We feel that if we jump-start a program here it could spread, and that is what I am really looking forward to," Miller said.

The students' "Music + Memories = Magic" program is a replica of the efforts of social worker Dan Cohen, who has been using technology and music to improve the lives of long-term care patients since 2008.

For more information about the UW-Eau Claire "Music + Memories = Magic" project, contact Emily Miller at or Kristina Malec at



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