SONGWRITING WORKS is at the forefront of creativity in aging and community building through song.
The SONGWRITING WORKS method
was initially developed by Judith-Kate Friedman during her California Arts Council artist-in-residency project at Artworks (now Consortium for Elders and Youth in the Arts) at the San Francisco Institute on Aging (1990-92). She later replicated the model with older adults in multi-site healthcare settings, intergenerational groups, youth (K-12), with adults with intellectual disabilities, incarcerated women, and professionals in health and social services. All reported social, spiritual and tangible physical benefits (1992-97).
During this time Songwriting Works operated as a project under the auspices of Brava! for Women in the Arts (1995-
2002) and the SEEDS project (2003-2009).
In 1997 Friedman brought the program to the Jewish Home of San Francisco,
and further developed it across the care continuum expanding the method to serve those with Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive illness and those with depression and gero-psych needs. Performance and recording projects (CD "Island on a Hill," Nathan Friedkin's documentary film "A 'Specially Wonderful Affair") brought the elders' songs to international film, radio and internet audiences.
Participants performed at conferences and gala events
including the 2004 Art of Aging festival and the American Society on Aging 's 50th anniversary conference in conjunction with the National Council on the Aging (now Aging in America). In 2006, Friedman relocated to Washington State's Olympic Peninsula and brought Songwriting Works to a rural region for the first time. In 2010-11, Songwriting Works' Educational Foundation is partnering with the Washington Health Foundation Rural Health Initiative and more than a dozen allied agencies to develop music-for-wellness tools for older adults, caregivers and families.
In 2007, Theresa Allison MD, MMusic conducted
a nine-month study of the Songwriting Works™ method with 40 elders engaged in composing both secular and sacred music. In her research, published in book chapter form in the Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology (Oxford University Press, 2008), Dr. Allison found that "creating and performing original songs enabled institutionalized elders to remain vibrant and creative despite the progression of physical and cognitive challenges.” Elders' average age: 87.
Friedman received the 2007 MetLife Foundation/ American Society on Aging MindAlert Award for Innovate Programs Enhancing Mental Fitness of Older Adults and joined ASA's national MindAlert Speaker's Bureau faculty. In 2008, she and colleagues Mark Friedlander and Rabbi Sheldon Marder received the Society for the Arts in Healthcare's Blair Sadler International Healing Arts Award for ten years of programming at the Jewish Home.
In 2009 Songwriting Works™ Educational Foundation was founded
as an independent 501c3 charitable organization
and received one of the nation's first "Creativity and Aging in America" grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. With this support, Songwriting Works, in conjunction with Arts Northwest and the Olympic Area Agency on Aging, launched new programs through which:
• An advisory council of elders from the arts, aging, medicine and education guides decisions
• Family caregivers join with their loved ones to compose and perform their original songs
• Professional songwriters receive comprehensive training in SW's facilitator certification program.