Witnesses to Transformation: Family Member Experiences Providing Individualized Music to Relatives with Dementia


The insights gained in this study have implications for all educators and particularly music educators. When viewed within the life stage and evolution of self frameworks, music education appears as an investment; one that will bring benefits and rewards throughout the learner’s life and potentially for many whose lives are linked. We understood the social and cultural experience of music, means something important at any life stage to the individual and members of interdependent social networks. Music educators could encourage individuals of any age to listen to and create music; and teach the technical and culturally aesthetic skills of developing an individualized play list in music curriculums.  The understandings gained in the present study are limited by the scope and qualitative nature of the analysis and cannot be generalized to larger populations.  A second limitation is that we did not develop the interview questions; having conducted this analysis; we would consider a second study where we shape inquiry. However, as researchers, we experienced some transformative insights about music in our lives.  We are committed to learning to manage technology, music choices, and our social network to develop a rich and meaningful experience centered on music as we transition later life.

Contributing factors Technology has enhanced transmission of music and families can use familiar music to connect, communicate, and interact with a relative who is a PWD.  Music is an expression of macro and micro culture that members of social networks carry forward as a shared and often treasured experience.  All members of an interdependent social network are engaged when individuals enter life stage changes, including those encountered in late life. We suggest a new leadership role for educators, music lovers, health care providers and especially music educators. Teaching and valuing music making is an investment that will pay dividends throughout life.

This presentation will describe the findings summarized above and delineate contributing factors that created value from the cultural experience of music over a lifetime. A discussion will be developed with the audience at to elicit personal experiences and suggestions in comparison with the results. 

Elizabeth Johnston
Patricia Shopland
Barbara Foyil
Presentation Date: 
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Event or Conference: 
AECT, 2017 Leading for Change
Presentation Type: 
Paper Presentation
Presentation Location: 
Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront
Jacksonville, FL
United States
Family members often used IPad, IPods, headphones, splitters, and other technical devices to share preferred, culturally relevant, digitized music with relatives with dementia. Sharing familiar music enhanced memories and interactive opportunities where family members connected, and communicated with aging relatives. Educational leaders have an opportunity to recognize and introduce the importance of culture in music education and curriculums. Teaching technological skills could support lifetime access to culturally valued music in face-to-face or virtual contexts.