Music Makes Memories


Amelia Benjiman playing her guitar for members at a nursing home.

Music is often called the voice of the soul, but as junior Amelia Benjamin found, it can also help regain voices of past memories. Three years ago, the summer before her freshman year, Benjamin founded the organization Music Making Memories in order to help those who suffer from dementia and alzheimer’s to regain parts of their past and memories, if only for a little bit.

“A few years ago, my dad forwarded me this article about the impact of music on Alzheimer’s,” Benjamin said. “It was about the scientifically proven benefits of music therapy in improving the severe symptoms patients often face.”

The organization started small, with just Benjamin visiting various nursing homes and care facilities in the area to sing songs primarily from the ‘40s and ‘50s.

“I’ve always loved music,” she said. “This felt like a calling, like that was what I was meant to do. And watching the impact it had on people – people who would be sleeping when I first started but would come alive by the end of it, singing and clapping along – was amazing.”

Benjamin said that while initially she was the only member of her organization, her recent recognition as Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen gave her a platform that made people listen to her and look to her as an influencer.

“People were finally reaching out to me, and looking to see how I engaged in my community,” she said. “And I knew I wanted to use that to grow Music Making Memories”

The organization has grown from one person to fifteen volunteers in the past three years. The group regularly visits thirteen organizations, where they attempt to emphasize a personalized setting, usually taking residents aside one-by-one to play the whole repertoire of songs.

“The way music makes people remember is awe-inspiring to watch,” Benjamin said. “I remember one woman named Jackie who had a piano but swore to me that she couldn’t play. But after watching me sit down with my songbook and sitting down herself, she played everything in the book better than I ever could.”

Going forward, Benjamin is looking to use the experience and connections she’s gained to expand Music Making Memories nationwide, and gain more volunteers who want to contribute to the ultimate goal – to bring music back into the lives of those who may have forgotten it.