Music therapist Alice Avigal is retiring after more than 30 years of service in both the San Diego Community College District and our Glenner Hillcrest Center.
We spent a few minutes following a final session with our participants to talk about the role music plays in the lives of those with a memory impairment and the role she’s played for three decades in our lives.
Part of what “made things so wonderful,” she said, was approaching her role as less of a teacher and more as a therapist learning from others who had so much to offer.
“And I think because of that I came to them with an open heart and said, ‘You have a lot of years on me and I have a lot to learn from you.’ And I was able to give them a lot of respect and honor their life experiences and their beautiful spirits,” she said.
Music therapy for this particular population is important to their overall well-being and one of the programs we both stress and specialize in at the Glenner Centers.
“Part of the brain that learns and retains music is one of the last parts to go when Alzheimer’s attacks,” Alice explained. “So when someone loses their ability to speak, they still can retain their ability to sing.
“It’s like the guy who stutters but can sing. It increases their self-esteem, it promotes social interaction and shortcuts any academic, intellectual learning.”
Alice said she understood the importance of playing songs from participants’ youth – sometimes over and over – but would occasionally try to introduce new material.
“Alice has been here almost as long as we’ve been here, and the music she brings appeals to everybody, and so everyone looks forward to her visits,” said Maria Stefanic, the activity coordinator for the Hillcrest Center.
“She’s able to bring out something in everybody that comes to the center,” she added.
“It’s been a good journey,” Alice said. “But it’s time to say good-bye.”
Thank you, Alice, for sharing your time and talent with us for all these years. We will continue to sing your praises.