Jenny Cook, the staff music therapist for the Songs by Heart Foundation, dances with memory care residents in Tulsa, OK.

Program Expands Tulsa Opera’s Community Outreach to Therapeutically Engage People With Age-Related Memory Issues in Interactive Singing
Specially Trained Musicians Lead Participants in Singing Familiar Tunes Like “Oklahoma!” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “You Are My Sunshine”
Program Benefits for Participants Include Stress Reduction, Improved Self-Confidence and Social Interaction

TULSA, OKLAHOMA (December 8, 2022) – Tulsa Opera is adding Songs by Heart, an interactive singing program recognized for therapeutic benefits to people with age-related memory issues, to its community-outreach and engagement efforts.

As part of this program for memory-care communities, Tulsa Opera provides a specially trained professional-level singer with live piano accompaniment to engage participants in group singing, clapping, dancing and conversation using familiar tunes like “Oklahoma!” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

Tulsa Opera is partnering with the Songs by Heart Foundation to launch the program in the Tulsa area. Since its beginning in the Chicago area in 2015, Songs by Heart has grown to be part of the therapeutic programming in more than 50 memory-care communities across the nation. The program is designed to be offered to participants as regular, repeated programming in in memory-care communities

“We are thrilled to add this important program that can improve the quality of life for members of Tulsa-area communities who struggle with memory issues,” says Ken McConnell, Tulsa Opera general director and chief executive officer. “Our pilot programs have generated a lot of enthusiasm for Songs by Heart. Given the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the growing senior population, this program is needed now more than ever.

“Songs by Heart is a great example of Tulsa Opera’s increasing focus to ensure that our company’s reach extends well beyond the performance stage into the fabric of the Tulsa-area community,” McConnell said.

In Songs by Heart, the singer-leader uses therapeutic techniques such as mirroring, verbal and gestural prompting, making direct eye contact, and holding hands with participants throughout the program.

Program benefits to participants can include reduced stress, improved self-confidence and social interaction.

Music-evoked emotions and memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s patients, and listening to familiar songs can temporarily reduce anxiety, enhance self-consciousness and identity, and improve cognitive performance in verbal and autobiographical memory.

“Studies from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America show that music can impact moods, manage stress, stimulate positive social interactions and more,” says Dani Keil, Tulsa Opera director of outreach. “During the sessions, we see that embodied rhythm can aid with motor coordination. The residents express themselves through the music, and emotions and memories bubble to the surface. This program is so much more than just a sing-along.”

Tulsa Opera’s Chief Development Officer Amanda Viles says, “We are hearing great feedback from our pilot programs, and communities are examining their budgets to make it possible to bring Songs by Heart in regularly.

“Having frequent, at least weekly, sessions is key for the program to have its full impact for the residents. We are seeking grants and donations to subsidize the program expenses,” Viles says. “Support from donors will be critical to Tulsa Opera Songs by Heart’s success and sustainability.”

Tulsa Opera’s Songs by Heart program is designed as 45-minute sessions ranging from once a week up to five days per week. Song selections are tailored to communities, with variety that spans musical theater, patriotic and folk tunes as well as jazz standards. Personnel include a professional-level singer and pianist.

Memory-care communities interested in scheduling sessions or getting additional information about Songs by Heart in the Tulsa area may contact Dani Keil at

Tulsa Opera accepts monetary donations to support its Songs by Heart program via its website at Songs by Heart – Tulsa Opera.