Musical Awakening

Volume 117, No. 7July, 2017

Dave Roth

The author and his late mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, enjoying music together.

We all know that music can heal. That’s why I’m pleased to announce the sixth annual Broadway Alzheimer’s iPod Drive, which runs from Aug. 1 to 19. As some of you know, my mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and was stripped of awareness and language for the three years prior to her death in 2014. But before her passing, I had introduced my mom to an iPod filled with her favorite music, and I watched her sing words that I hadn’t heard her speak in years. Unfortunately now my father also suffers from the same disease. It’s very painful to realize that my own father doesn’t know who I am. But I just put one foot in front of the other and continue to love him and help stir his memories in the hope that there is still a window open to his mind.

My original inspiration for the iPod drive was the Sundance-winning documentary “Alive Inside,” which follows the work of Dan Cohen and his organization Music & Memory ( Dan is a trained social worker with a background in technology. He realized there was a perfect marriage to be had with both. 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 creates custom playlists that speak specifically to each individual patient to help them recall memories and emotions from their past. The results are absolutely astounding! Patients who are in a catatonic state or are detached will awaken and move, sing, and even converse about what they are experiencing through the music. Of course, I am not surprised by the power of music, but seeing it first hand is always incredibly moving and inspiring.

In the documentary, Dan relates the frustrations of trying to convince institutions to spend the minuscule money on listening devices only to find they were much more inclined to spend thousands more on psychotropic drugs to sedate these patients. That really resonated with me. I knew that there was something I could do – and more importantly, there was something my community of fellow musicians and artists could do.

So this year, the organization CaringKind NYC and I are once again reaching out to those onstage and in the pit to help spread the word about this amazing project. So many people have used iPods sitting in drawers or boxes and I think this is the most beautiful recycling program ever. I’m thrilled to have the casts of all the Broadway shows once again contributing their voices to the cause.

This year, in addition to collecting used iPods, we are also looking for monetary donations that can be used to buy new iPods. See We ask that you write “Broadway Alzheimer’s iPod Drive” in the “in memory of” section of the donation page to help us track our efforts. For more information about donating your used iPod, see the yellow box above.

Local 802 member Dave Roth is a freelance percussionist and performs frequently in Broadway pits. He’s currently performing at “Cats.”