Plaza Vista students form philanthropic choir to share music and memories with local seniors

Last year, we told you about a number of service-learning projects taking place throughout IUSD, made possible by a three-year, $86,000 state grant and a unique collaboration with the nonprofit group Team Kids.

That work continues this year, and in fact we were recently pointed to an undertaking over at Plaza Vista School that is as artistic as it is altruistic.

For the last seven months, some dedicated P.V. students have been sacrificing their lunch breaks and staying after school to learn songs from the ’20s and ’30s. In turn, they’ve been sharing these classics with audiences of Irvine-area seniors.

“The need for this project is two-fold,” said Erica Turrell, the school’s choir director. “It will give the seniors of Irvine an opportunity to hear music from their past sung by children in a meaningful setting, and the students will experience the joy of giving, as well as a deeper learning and appreciation for music history.”

“The program is especially beneficial for seniors with memory impairment such as Alzheimer’s,” Turrell added.

Plaza Vista’s Music Share and Care Choir, which features about 26 singers, began by researching and learning childhood favorites of seniors from the Irvine Senior Center and Irvine Adult Day Health Services (IADHS) program. After a few months of rehearsing Tin Pan Alley-era tunes such as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “A Bicycle Built for Two” and “Shine on Silver Moon,” the group hit the road to perform during lunch at both sites. 

Audience members were presented songbooks and invited to sing along, and students performing at the Irvine Senior Center even joined the local residents to take part in Origami and plant-potting workshops.

“One of the most touching and meaningful moments during the concert was when a senior said, ‘My father used to sing this to me when I was a little girl,’” Turrell recalled. “The senior caretakers, IADHS staff and parent volunteers also sang along, and some even danced, making it an all around joyful experience for everyone involved. 

More recently, the Music Share and Care Choir teamed up with members of the Threshold Choir of Orange County and students from Soka University to stage a benefit concert. The March 5 performance at the Irvine Senior Center raised $1,148 for IADHS, a nonprofit that provides structured day programs for seniors.

The Music Share Care Choir is set to perform one last time at the second annual IUSD Service-Learning Share Fair, which kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on May 10 in the gymnasium at Irvine High School. The event will recognize other service-learning projects completed by IUSD students and teachers this year thanks in part to a CalServe Initiative grant, which was funded by the state Department of Education.

Turrell expressed her gratitude for the CalServe grant and the district’s support of service-learning under facilitator Abby Edmunds.

“Through this effort, we have inspired students to serve through the arts by giving of their time and talents while making connections to the middle school curriculum standards,” she said. “In addition, the choir students have learned an important lesson about the power of music in people of all ages, including their own lives.”