Montessori School children forge musical bond with Kimball Farms seniors


Photo Gallery | Montessori School students sing with Kimball Farms residents

Video | Andy Kelly brings Montessori students and Kimball Farms residents together with song

LENOX — Despite the generations between them, a group of children from The Montessori School of the Berkshires and residents of the Kimball Farms Lifecare community have been getting to know one another by singing side by side.

Kimball Farms Activities Director Sharon Lazerson invited local musician Andy Kelly, a leader of The Pittsfield Sister City Jazz Ambassadors, to lead a 10-week sing-along session that will culminate with a Dec. 8 concert for the whole facility.

Lazerson said most of the dozen residents who are participating are in the Life Enrichment Program at Pine Hill, which tailors programs and services to the needs of people with memory loss. She said the choral collaboration has become a great stimulus for the residents.

"Music and children are two things that never fail to bring joy," Lazerson said.

Indeed, Kelly observed, the group's weekly Tuesday afternoon meetings have produced more than music.

"The two groups have been bonding steadily, and they really sing their hearts out together," he said. "The children are learning to be with old people, to share stories in both directions, to make friends with one anther, and to share their common joy of music. It's great!"

At a recent rehearsal, in addition to practicing tunes from a well-ranging repertoire, like "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "La Bamba," little lessons popped up along the way.

Six-year-old Eva Barrows gave a mini-presentation on a piece of art that she made, earning "oohs" and "ahhs" from a dozen newly adopted doting "grandmothers."

When resident Doris Aronson dropped her scarf, 9-year-old Cecilia Clary noticed it, picked it up, and pressed it into the woman's hands. "Oooh, thank you," the woman responded, patting the scarf.

Six-year-old Isaiah Carter didn't seem keen at first on the idea of holding residents' hands during a song, but eventually gave it a try. He also showed one woman how to coordinate her arms and hands for movements with the song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes."

While rehearsing "Frère Jacques/Are You Sleeping?" in rounds, resident Germaine Peron, who grew up in Brittany, France, offered pronunciation tips and talked about how she was 9 when she sang that song in her boarding school as World War II came to a head.

Other sharing experiences have included the kids and residents baking for each other, sharing other stories, learning what it's like getting older, and the kids even trying out what it's like to have to walk with a walker.

Lazerson, who will be soon be retiring from her role, said she hopes her legacy is bringing generations together to learn from and understand each other. In addition to Montessori students coming to Kimball Farms for the music program, the kids also do arts and crafts, and kindergartners participate in a story time there.

Lazerson said students from Morris Elementary School in Lenox, as well as volunteers from Miss Hall's School in Pittsfield and youths from other schools, have worked with residents, too.

"It's really nice and we've gotten to make a lot of friends we didn't expect," said Noelia Salinetti, 10.

"At first I was scared to come here, but now I'm not afraid anymore," Clary said.

Contact reporter Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.


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