Victory Chorus escapes struggles of dementia through music

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DULUTH, MN — The power of music can be seen in many ways. For Duluth’s Victory Chorus, it serves as an escape for those who struggle with dementia.

Once a week every Sunday, the group gathers to prepare for their upcoming performance, forming some key memories along the way.

“It’s a place where they can go and feel safe and supported and joyful,” Project Manager Mimi Stender said.

Made up of 42 total singers, 11 participants suffer from the memory loss disease.

“Music memory is one of the last to go,” Stender said.

While under the same roof on Sunday afternoons, the chorus forgets together and lets the music flow.

“Music is the universal language,” Victory Fund Executive Director Kathy McNamara-Heimbach said. “Whether it’s any language, any tune, any melody, music touches people in different ways, but in so many ways.”

Former professor Diane Kessler was diagnosed in January of this year.

“It was on my birthday,” Kessler said. “I was devastated. Absolutely devastated.”

With her family scattered across the country, Kessler was forced to deal with her struggles on her own.

“What’s difficult is when your family is elsewhere,” Kessler said. “And, because of that, it’s always fearful, so my family does not know that I have been diagnosed.”

That is, until she opened up to her new one.

“With a group in the same place, it’s not scary anymore. It’s a family,” Kessler said. “I don’t have family living here, so there is a family here, and I feel that way with my friends too.”

Organizers say that’s what it’s all about.

“Our goal is to literally create joy through this time together, through the music, through being together and supporting each other, and that’s how you feel,” Stender said. “You feel joyful and grateful.”

Through the power of music, a group of individuals are able to come together to bind as one.

“Diane is so special. Every single one of our participants is special, and they are each special in their own way,” Stender said. “We’re so blessed that they’ve chosen to spend their Sunday afternoons with us.”

The group’s performance will be held on May 5th at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth.

Gamiel Hall

Gamiel Hall

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