Sing for Your Health! Helps Parkinson’s Patients Through Melodic Music

Vocals prove therapeutic for Parkinson’s patients.

Dana Caltiri leads a group of Parkinson's disease patients in therapeutic song.
Courtesy of Julia Peterson

The connection between singing and healing has long been a passion for singer/songwriter Dana Calitri. In addition to her successful career as a backup singer for artists like Celine Dion and Elton John and writing hit songs for the likes of Daughtry (“Crashed”) and Halestorm (“I Get Off”), the Bloomfield resident helped develop Sing for Your Health!, a therapeutic program for Parkinson’s disease patients that’s offered monthly in West Orange, Ridgewood and New York City. 

Studies have shown that singing can help Parkinson’s patients speak, move and feel better, as well as help alleviate anxiety and stress. With those results in mind, Calitri helped create the program in 2015 with Audrey Berger Welz, a music-business colleague who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago, and for whom singing has proven extremely beneficial. 

“It’s a two-hour group workshop focusing on the healing power of sound and singing,” Calitri says. “We talk about the science, give the attendees vocal exercises to address their symptoms, and then we lead them in singing.” The accompanying musicians are all industry professionals; the songs range from Broadway to the Beatles.

“You don’t have to be able to sing to be in the workshop,” Calitri stresses. “And it’s not only for people with Parkinson’s, but for their caregivers and friends, too.”

The West Orange program, held at the JCC Metrowest, is free. The Ridgewood group meets at the local YMCA for a minimal charge. The programs are sponsored in part by US WorldMeds, a specialty pharmaceutical company. For more information, visit sfyhealth.com.

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