WILSON — The first Monday of every month this summer at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center, kids from Pumpkin Patch Preschool and residents of the River Rock Lodge assisted living facility are forming a bond.
Experimenting with sound, rhythm and beats, they’ve found something they can all enjoy in the Music Together of Jackson Hole program.
Sixty-nine-year-old John Mannion loves to talk music trivia with program leader Susan Jones. Lois Hungate, an organist for 48 years in Cheyenne, attends because she likes to stay in touch with her passion. Betty Legg enjoys the program’s effect on her.
“I was feeling down this morning, and I didn’t really want to come,” Legg said, “but then the kids cheered me up. They’re just so animated, so alive, so happy. It’s enlightening and refreshing.”
Legg isn’t the only one who gets a boost from attending. Many of the seniors receive hugs from the preschoolers upon entering. They leave their walkers at the door, and the music gets them moving.
The children get excited, too. As soon as Jones breaks out the musical instruments, the youngsters flock to her, grabbing tambourines, rhythm sticks, bells, maracas, triangles and other noisemakers.
With Jones as their guide, the seniors and children create a universal rhythm alongside well-known songs, and Jones tries to choose tunes both generations can appreciate. John Denver and Ziggy Marley are favorites.
And even if the kids don’t understand everything that’s being sung, they’re still a part of the experience.
“It’s all about the exposure,” Jones said. “As we get older, we lose tones and rhythms. But if children learn early, they have it with them their whole life, and they can keep it around forever.“
Jones also teaches at the Center for the Arts as part of the worldwide program and franchise Music Together. Classes are held in the fall, winter and spring, with a special Christmas offering as well.
The programs, including the free one in Wilson, follow a curriculum meant to teach kids about topics outside of music. In a song about the beach, Jones uses colorful posters to explain types of seashells. For other melodies, she brings out stuffed animals for the children and adults to interact with. This hands-on approach teaches other lifelong lessons, like the importance of sharing and self-control. Geography is taught with a 1970s rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
But most importantly, the program provides the kids and seniors a forum for interaction.
“I think that in today’s society, there’s often a disjointed connection between gen erations,” Jones said. “And we really need to find ways to bridge that gap. Music Together works, and I encourage more people of all ages to come out and get involved.”