Senior Life: Senior chorus hits high note, seeks funds

A Jamaica Plain senior chorus founded a year ago as a short-term class has grown into a an organization in its own right. Now JP Jubilee, formerly called Singing for Seniors, is looking for financial support.

Longtime voice teacher and JP resident Elizabeth Anker originally only found enough funding to teach a nine-week singing class for seniors, as the Gazette previously reported.

But after that initial session, more funding was found to keep it going. Now, a year after its first session, JP Jubilee is on the lookout for funding to make it a permanent program at the JP Branch Library.

“After the [original] grant was finished, the Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library was kind enough to support the chorus last fall and is supporting the chorus again this winter/spring,” librarian Laura Pattinson told the Gazette.

But that funding is running out, and JP Jubilee has already started fundraising, beginning with a winter concert last year, to become self-supporting indefinitely, much to the joy of its members.

“[Anker] really helps older people, women especially, to keep using the full range of their voices,” member Kathleen Robinson, 73, told the Gazette. “There’s a really good sense of community. And it’s fun. That’s the most important reason.”

Anker previously told the Gazette of the many benefits of “creative aging”—seniors maintaining a level of activity in creative pursuits as they age. She was out of town last week and unavailable for an interview.

“They do better physically. They need less medication. They’re less lonely. They need fewer doctor’s visits. It helps keep people in their own homes longer,” she said last March, at the start of the group. “It helps keep people engaged.”

Anker said she particularly enjoys teaching seniors because of their life experience and because “they’re not afraid to be playful.”

Anker is “very invested in the mental and physical well-being of seniors. She sees the two as very caught up together,” member and JP resident Penny Yunuba, 73, told the Gazette. “I find it both physically and mentally challenging.”

The class covers easier songs from many styles and periods, including standards, show tunes and traditional. Knowing how to read music is not necessary.

“Liz isn’t focused on a concert. She’s focused on teaching you how to sing,” Yunuba said. “She’s really incredible.”

According to Robinson, who has been taking the day since its start, she never would have met the other 30 to 40 seniors who participate.

“I was just having tea with another woman in the group I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” she told the Gazette last week.

Besides their weekly Friday morning meeting and occasional concert, the group also sometimes sings at senior housing for residents who don’t have enough mobility to get out and enjoy the class themselves.

JP Jubilee was originally funded by a grant from the MetLife Foundation in partnership with nonprofit Lifetime Arts. Anker has been teaching a similar class in the South End for about five years and has been a voice teacher since 1989.

JP Jubilee is free to people aged 55 and over, but registration with the library at 617-524-2053 is required.

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