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For Parkinson’s Patients, Tremble Clefs Offer Therapy Through Song

When it comes to Parkinson’s Disease, most people think about the near constant trembling that accompanies the disease. Another side of the illness, though, is the toll it can take on the human voice. For some patients that can mean a softer voice, for others it can mean a struggle to articulate. In many cases, experts say, the end result of these challenges is often social isolation.

In all, nearly 90 percent of Parkinson’s patients suffer from some form of speech disorder, yet less than five percent ever receive formal treatment. That’s where a Newton-based choir called the Tremble Clefs comes in.

On the surface, the Tremble Clefs is a choir, but the main mission of the group is to improve the communication skills of its members — all Parkinson’s patients — through song. To do so, the group incorporates a speech therapy program called Lee Silverman Voice Training into a wide range of holiday songs, spirituals, and show tunes.

Nancy Mazonson is director of the Parkinson’s Family Support Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the choir’s organizer.

“We have a very self-selecting group of sophisticated people who had very challenging jobs in the past and they approach having Parkinson’s and having a chronic disease in the same way they approached their careers,” Mazonson said. “They’re aggressive, they want to grab what’s out there, they’re open to new possibilities, and they want to work hard.”

The Tremble Clefs is a collaboration between the Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Waltham; the Mass. General Hospital’s Department of Speech, Language, and Swallowing Disorders; and the Partners Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at MGH.



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  • http://www.bidmc.org/pdcenter Daniel Tarsy MD

    We too have found that singing in groups is a very enjoyable and motivating activity for patients wtih Parkinson’s disease, especially those affected by low voice volume. Many of our patients at the Parkinson’s Disease Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center enjoy choral singing and some have participated in our formal research study of the impact of choral singing on voice loudness.

  • http://www.michaeljfox.org/research_MJFFfundingPortfolio_searchableAwardedGrants_3.cfm?ID=566 Holly Barkhymer

    Learn more about SING-PD, the project led by Dr. Tarsy (commenter above), funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation, at our Web site — just follow the link in my name below!

  • Marilyn Okonow

    As music director for the Tremble Clefs you heard on this program, I would add that what makes this program unique is that it is community-based and meets on an ongoing basis. It is part of the Parkinsons Family Support Program at Jewish Family and Childrens’ Services. We are actively seeking new members and their caregivers who want to improve their voices and have fun at the same time. For more information about the chorus and the other aspects of the Parkinsons program, contact Nancy Mazonson at 781-647-5327, ext.5069 or go to http://www.jfcsboston.org.

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