Children and seniors take turns shaking shakers in time to the music in a "music buddies" class at Malvern Belmont. When the music prompts, the shaker is passed from one partner to the other. Music therapist Carla Tanguay, right, leads the class in sing-along songs. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Let’s make music together: children, seniors connect at music class

BAR HARBOR — Once a week, pre-K students from Kids Corner Early Childhood Education Center circle up with a group of local senior citizens for music class with music therapist Carla Tanguay.

With younger class members on floor mats, and older class members on chairs, everyone sings along with the songs Tanguay leads.

From her own floor mat, Tanguay strums along on guitar. Everyone knows the words of the songs that are sung week after week.

The group includes some residents of the Malvern Belmont Estates housing facility, community members and Kids Corner teachers. Each adult is paired with one or two children for songs that require a partner.

Before the end of each class, young and old music buddies have a chance to say goodbye until next time, singing a goodbye song as they wave to one another. Social interaction is an important part of the intergenerational class, according to Tanguay. “They’re really forming some nice bonds,” she said. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY BECKY PRITCHARD

One song instructs partners to give each other a high-five or handshake. In another song, children shake shakers in time to the music, passing the shakers to their adult friends when the music prompts.

Yet another song involves a green snake puppet operated by Tanguay, much to the delight of the children. The puppet eats shakers coincidently, and collects them from the children when they’re no longer needed in the class.

The songs are about colors, numbers and feelings.

One of the main goals of the class, Tanguay said, is to foster “social interactions between the generations.” Music is a natural way to do this, she said.

“They’re really forming some nice bonds,” Tanguay said of the young and old class members.

Sometimes the youngsters will seek out a particular favorite grown-up to sit with, said Kids Corner teacher and director Lori Krupke.

Through music, the children work on skills such as following directions, letters, and numbers. When it comes to following directions in music, Tanguay said, “the adults can be mentors or models.”

Tanguay also works with the children on self-regulation skills through music. As the tempo changes, children practice playing and stopping quickly, increasing energy and then calming down. Some moments in the class are an outright dance party. Others are more serious and quiet, like saying goodbye to senior buddies at the end of class.

Tanguay said the idea for the an intergenerational music class came to her while doing music therapy at an adult day program in Southwest Harbor. She sometimes held special events at the program that also included families with children.

Percussion instruments are tasty, but only if you’re a puppet. The green snake puppet operated by Tanguay happily gobbles up the musical shakers fed by the children as they clean up before the end of class. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY BECKY PRITCHARD

When Tanguay started her own music therapy organization called Modulations Therapies in 2015, she reached out to Krupke at Kids Corner and Allie Bodge at Malvern Belmont about the idea of doing an intergenerational class. Both were open to the idea.

Kids Corner and Malvern Belmont are right across the street from one another, making the collaboration “a great fit,” Tanguay said.

Tanguay received a grant to fund the class the first year. The Hattie A. & Fred C. Lynam Trust of Ellsworth has been funding the class ever since.

The class has a loyal following among Malvern Belmont residents.

“This is the fun part of the day, of the week,” said Jeanette Walton.

“This is the highlight of my week to come and be with these children,” said Ray Walters. “It’s always fun.”

The intergenerational program is so good for all of us,” said Krupke, who accompanies the children across the street each week to participate.

At one recent class, she said, “after singing a song about emotions, one of our regular music buddies had pointed out that she was sad. When music was over I went up to her and asked if it was okay to give her a hug. She gladly accepted.”

Had it not been for the music class, Krupke continued, “I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to connect with her and share a bit of compassion.”


An earlier version of the article misidentified the Hattie A. & Fred C. Lynam Trust, referring to it as Lynam Agency. The Islander apologizes for the error.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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