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Local Hero Of The Week: Mending Minds With The Power Of Music

Carol Rosenstein
Music Mends Minds co-founder Carol Rosenstein with her late husband Irwin Rosenstein.
(Photo courtesy of Music Mends Minds)
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A lot of people don’t enjoy taking their medicine every day. But what if that medicine involved a piano and a few resonant harmonies?

That’s what Carol Rosenstein, the co-founder of the nonprofit Music Mends Minds, saw as an alternative way to help her late husband, Irwin Rosenstein. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2006, which later progressed to dementia.

A few years ago, the doctor reduced the dosage of Irwin's medicine due to complications, which set him back even further. Rosenstein was upset to watch her husband losing himself.

Until she saw him on the piano.

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"I could see magically as he was playing the piano in our home that he would revive in about 15 minutes after making music,” said Rosenstein. “And the neurologist confirmed that music is medicine for our mind. And that is how Music Mends Minds started.”

There's plenty of science to back this up. A 2020 study found that music therapy can have a positive effect on cognitive function for those with dementia. It can also increase dopamine release,which enhances mood.

Rosenstein assembled other folks with degenerative illnesses to play music together.

“And in short order, four souls took to a Steinway piano, a drum kit and a saxophone, and a harmonica. And in 15 minutes, we had four brothers joined at the hip.”

After that Rosenstein formed the band The 5th Dementia in 2014. She said its members blossomed through the power of communal music-making.

That became the foundation for Music Mends Minds, which she co-founded with her husband (who passed away in Jan. 2021) to provide companionship through bands and choirs for those suffering from neurodegenerative illnesses.

The effort has been a success, with groups of seniors around the world banding together to share music.

We've now gone global and it's kind of like we went viral," Rosenstein said. "We've been watching our organic seed flower.”

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Denise Davis, whose mother is in a music group, praised Rosenstein for allowing her mother to find a place where she could enjoy herself while living with Alzheimer’s.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult,” Davis said.”So I was grateful for a place that made her smile and where there was nothing but support and understanding for the both of us.”

Music Mends Minds recently partnered with Rotary International to provide access to music to seniors across the globe through free weekly virtual music therapy classes.

Rosenstein also looks to expand in-person bands and choirs in other countries, with the help of volunteers.

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