JCFS honours CMU Music Therapy practicum collaboration

On June 19, Jewish Child and Family Service (JCFS), honoured Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) Music Therapy program, for their collaboration with JCFS’s new Music and Memory program.

In January, staff at JCFS approached CMU about partnering in a brand-new program for older adults in different stages of memory loss.

Cheryl Hirsh Katz, Lee-Anne Adams, and Einat Paz-Keynan
L-R: Cheryl Hirsh Katz, Manager of Adult Services, JCFS, Lee-Anne Adams, Instructor of Music Therapy, CMU, and Einat Paz-Keynan, Manager of Volunteer Services, JCFS, celebrate the collaboration between CMU’s Music Therapy program and JCFS’s Music and Memory program.
(photo courtesy of JCFS).

“We thought it would be a good fit,” says Einat Paz-Keynan, Manager of Volunteer Services at JCFS. “Between our needs for the Music and Memory program, and their skills in Music Therapy, as well as their field placement requirements, it was a perfect match.”

The goal of the Music and Memory program is to help people with memory loss unlock memories not yet lost to illnesses like Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and to reinvigorate participants, enabling them to converse and stay present.

From January to April, CMU Music Therapy program students Deidra Borus and Michaela Olson, met with clients in their homes, bringing iPods pre-programmed with music specially selected for the client.

Initially, they would play the music from the iPod, and listen to it with the clients. But as the semester progressed, Borus and Olson started to bring in the element of live music.

“I would find out what their favourite songs were, and I would learn it on guitar,” says Borus. “Playing and singing provided a different perspective.”

One client Borus met with showed little response at first. But on one particular day, Borus began playing a traditional Jewish hymn, and within seconds, she recalls, the elderly client started speaking the lyrics and was eventually singing along.

“That reaction blew my mind. I’ve never had a client of any age respond to a piece of music that quickly.”

“Deidra and Michaela were able to take it a lot further because of their music therapy skills and training,” says Lee-Anne Adams, one of two Music Therapy Faculty at CMU.

CMU’s Music Therapy program trains students in the skillful and systematic use of music and all of its facets—emotional, mental, social, physical, cognitive, and spiritual—to assist in promoting, maintaining, and restoring health. The program is the only one of its kind offered across the prairie provinces and is accredited by the Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT).

“At the beginning, we didn’t know where this would lead,” says Paz-Keynan. “But we’re very happy with the outcomes of the program.”

In the future, Paz-Keynan says JCFS hopes to have more CMU Music Therapy students doing practicum placements with the Music and Memory program.

“I’m really proud of the work our students have done this year,” says Adams. “They did some very beautiful work. And I’m really pleased to have JCFS acknowledge the success of our partnership this way.”

For more information about studying Music Therapy at CMU, visit: