Musical awakening

Announcing an iPod drive on Broadway to bring the power of music to Alzheimer's patients

Volume 114, No. 7July, 2014

Dave Roth
The author and his mother, an Alzheimer's patient, experiencing the joy of music.

The author and his mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, experiencing the joy of music.

Over the past couple of years I’ve shared the story of my parents’ struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and so many of you responded with such generosity. Your iPod donations have brought such joy to those suffering from this horrible disease.

I am a lobbyist for the Alzheimer’s Association and work with local congressional offices and also the national offices in Washington, D.C. My parents’ condition has awakened me to the crisis of this disease for countless others, particularly with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day.

Statistics show that over 320,000 New Yorkers are struggling with the disease and at least 320,000 more have the heavy burden of caring for a family member.

But this is not simply a local story. An estimated 5.6 million Americans are currently diagnosed, and Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death. And of the 10 leading causes of death, it is the only one without any cure or treatment.

More importantly, this disease is not limited to just the elderly, as more cases of early onset are diagnosed every day.

By 2050, as many as 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s robbing them of independence and memory.

Through my volunteer work, I had the pleasure of viewing a first-time screening of the documentary “Alive Inside” (see

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows the work of social worker Dan Cohen here in New York City. You might have seen a clip from this film, featuring an Alzheimer’s sufferer named Henry, which went viral in 2012 after receiving nearly seven million hits on YouTube. The film received the Audience Award in this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will be premiered at the Sunshine Cinema (143 East Houston) on July 18.

Dan has been spending the better part of a decade introducing iPods into facilities that care for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

He specifically targets music that speaks to that particular patient in an effort to recall memories and emotions from their past.

The results are absolutely astounding! Patients who are in a detached or catatonic state are awakened and move, sing and even converse about what they are experiencing through the music.

Of course, as a musician I’m not surprised by the power of the music, but seeing it first-hand is still incredibly moving and inspiring.

Through the documentary, Dan related the frustration of trying to convince these institutions to spend a minuscule amount of money on listening devices only to find they were much more inclined to spend thousands on psychotropic drugs to sedate these patients.

That really resonated with me. I knew that there was something I could do and more importantly something my community of fellow musicians and artists could do. That is when the Broadway Alzheimer’s iPod Drive was born.

So many of us have old iPods sitting in drawers collecting dust at home. These are tools that can awaken people who are crying out in their own darkness.

In the spirit of bringing independence to those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, the collection drive starts on July 4 and goes through Aug. 19. I chose the ending date to honor my parent’s wedding anniversary. I have already given my mom the gift of music remembrance, and the results were remarkable. All the donations go to support the work of Dan Cohen’s organization Music & Memory (

For more info, see Dave Roth is a freelance percussionist and performs frequently in Broadway pits.

Donate your iPod to Alzheimer’s patients

You can bring your new or used iPod and charger directly to the Local 802 building, at 322 West 48th Street. Please bring it up to the president’s office on the fifth floor and ask for Robin Donach. Please e-mail any questions to Local 802 member Dave Roth at

You can also drop off or send your new or used iPod and charger to:

Broadway Alzheimer’s iPod Drive
Alzheimer’s Association NYC Chapter
360 Lexington, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10017