Choir Opens New Door For People With Parkinson’s Disease

Mike Shortal is a retired entrepreneur that was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that impairs motor functions. The disease has made Mike’s voice get weaker and has even began to develop tremors. Mike was a member of the Cathedral Choral Society for more than three decades. He’s enjoyed singing his entire life and feared he may soon loose the ability to. Fortunately that fear was swept away when he joined a choral program for anyone living with Parkinson’s and their caregivers.

The program was made by the Alchemy Sky Foundation in April. The choir was made to help older adults who have Parkinson’s have a better quality life. One of the most common effects from Parkinson’s is having trouble swallowing, and experts have said that singing can help with swallowing. By singing, it helps strengthen the muscles that are used to control our swallowing and respiratory functions.

“This helps with confidence and speech,” McCammack said, a man who suffers from tremors in his legs. Singing also helps with your mood and to reduce your stress and depression levels. “This gets them reacquainted with their musical passion,” said Jaye Budd, musician and executive founder of the 4-year-old Alchemy Sky Foundation. “Music is part of their journey. It helps them connect with their memories and emotions, and it brings people together.”

The Alchemy Sky Choir has its first public performance on October 27th, which is “Parkinson’s Moving Day.”

“Every little bit of movement helps,” Shortal said. He said he has noticed some improvement in his articulation and with getting his range back. This foundation works with the Roswell-based George Center, which is a leading music therapy group, to get the word out about their program.

There is no known cure for Parkinson’s and the cause of it remains unknown. Men, however, are more likely than women to develop Parkinson’s disease, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation Miami-based team. The disease is more likely to happen if it runs in the family or to people over the age of 60. Symptoms for Parkinson’s usually develop slowly over time and is spotted around the age of 60 and above. The most common symptoms are tremors, speech, and balance. These symptoms can vary however depending on the person.

Many of the people that come to this Parkinson’s choir come to heal themselves. “Im trying to get my voice stronger because one thing Parkinson’s does is weaken your voice.” Peggy Fuller said. Margaret Fuller found this choir when she was on Facebook looking for help for her mom. Peggy said she too use to sing. Margaret said her mother would sing to her to help her with rhythm. Peggy use to be very involved in music. She was a singer on both her high school and on her college choir when she was younger. “A big goal area for people with Parkinson’s is breath support and tone,” she said. “When you speak or sing, it’s all about breath. Breath is what carries the voice.”