The 5th Dementia documentary wrapped shooting yesterday at a song-filled party attended by almost all of The 5th Dementia band, their spouses and care givers.
We had an emotional discussion, where we heard from band members and their significant others about their struggles with Alzheimer's, dementia or Parkinson's and how playing with the band through Music Mends Minds has brought joy and friendship into their lives.
We learned that Leola could play Amazing Grace on the piano, Michael really enjoys public speaking, Mike and Sam do not. Pat loves to sing despite the fact that she is not a singer. Bob and Diana sang together years ago. Paul F likes red wine. Gene likes a cold Stella Artois. Ken can get up and dance at a moments notice. Paul L can play literally anything on the piano as long as it's in his memory bank and Gary can harmonize a melody like nobody's business.
With tears and laughter, we played some tunes, sang along, a few danced and we made plans to be together again very soon.
BAND MEMBER BIOS
Gene Sterling - Bandleader and Drummer
As a teen, I would go to my friend, Mike's house. He was a guitar player and we played blues together. I loved it. It was very pure and without pretense then. In the mid-90's I toured throughout Japan with a trio. We played original music by Japanese composers. It felt exhilarating to be involved in something so original. Collaborating in a foreign country was magical. Here's a poem I wrote to appreciate these opportunities and hopefully capture something of the moments of intimacy.
We're always referencing to our true selves.
Always, every prop, poem, lyric, fashion, act of generosity and loss.
It's always felt in the heart,
It always recedes in the distance.
It's always rather faint and
It's always slightly glowing.
It's always a reminder as
It's always infinitely connected.
It's always an act of simplicity as
It's always a deep acceptance.
It's always toned by humility and
It's always the risk of reaching out and
Being your gift.
Gene has a BFA in music from the CA Institute of the Arts and a MFA in music from the College Conservatory of Music. He has traveled and studied in Brazil and Africa and performed at the Newport, Monterey and Antibes Jazz Festivals. He successfully auditioned for the Louisville Orchestra and Jerusalem Symphony. Parkinson's disease has not limited his collaboration with The 5th Dementia band. He chooses the song lists with Paul Livadary (piano) each week and leads the band with dedication and assurance.
Paul Livadary - Piano
Paul founded the Pasadena Waldorf School 37 years ago and was a practicing attorney for 45 years. He and his wife Marina, have 6 children between them and 7 grandchildren. Paul can play anything by ear on the piano. Alzheimer's has taken no part of his musical life. Paul is the heart and soul of The 5th Dementia band. They call him their "music box". Paul is known for his one-liners and quick smile. He is a warm and kind gentleman who never misses a rehearsal and plays piano perfectly without any sheet music. All he needs is for Katheryne to hum the first few notes and he's off and running.
Irwin Rosenstein - Keyboard
Irwin and his sister, Edie, learned the piano together, until the teacher dismissed Irwin, age 6, for not practicing. This did not bother Irwin. He watched his sister's lesson through a keyhole and after the teacher left, would go to the piano and duplicate Edie's lesson. Irwin's musical education flowered from there. He played saxophone in high school which led to his first real job at Bence's Bar and Grill in Hamden, CT. Together with Mr. Bence, Irwin played in their band and was compensated with a free meal and a drink. He continued his musical career playing in the Penn marching band and now, at 82, awakes to loud, marching music and gets his morning exercise clapping his hands and marching vigorously around the house and backyard.
Today, Irwin plays piano by ear; he hardly reads music! His wife, Carol, says Irwin has contributed to many pleasurable years of marriage by playing music for her after attending a musical, concert or Broadway show. He would come home and recreate the songs on the piano as she lounged on the couch, enjoying his encore.
Carol realized early on in Irwin's Alzheimer's diagnosis that his musical ability was not affected by his disease. She and Irwin founded Music Mends Minds with their flagship band, The 5th Dementia, to keep the healing, joyful effect of music in their lives.
The 5th Dementia band rehearsals not only continue to enrich Irwin cognitively but also enhance the quality of his daily existence with the happiness it brings him.
Mike Hassett - Trumpet
Mike and his wife Janice are recent transplants from Massachusetts where Mike practiced law. (They came west to be near their 2 daughters who live in LA). Mike graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Western New England University Law School. He was instructed by, played and performed professionally with Ronnie Drumm and his Youth Band. After almost 30 years of not playing his trumpet, at Janice's urging, Mike picked it up again and practiced to where he plays perfectly now with The 5th Dementia band and loves it.
Paul Fox - Singer and Percussionist
Paul Fox is best known for producing such bands as XTC, 10,000 Maniacs, Phish, The Sugarcubes with Björk, They Might Be Giants, The Wallflowers, Edwin McCain, Semisonic, Grant Lee Buffalo and Sixpence None the Richer to name a few.
Albums he has participated in have sold over 50 million copies. Paul has played on many hit albums and soundtracks, including the Pointer Sisters, Top Gun and Rod Stewart.
Paul has developed and managed many artists. In 2005 he mapped out the journey for Internet sweetheart, Terra Naomi who went on to become YouTube’s first ever “girl with a guitar” and then “video artist of the year.”
He lives in LA with his wife Franne. They have one son. Paul plays many instruments, including piano, drums and percussion. Ask him to sit and play for you sometime.....
Kelly Hodel - Harmonica and Ukulele, VA Volunteer
Kelly was born and raised in LA. He started playing harmonica in grammar school then the cornet in his middle school and high school bands. He joined the Navy at 17 where he played in the drum and bugle corps. He was a Navy Corpsman for 2 years, a Marine Corpsman for 2 years and then spent 2 years as a Medical Administrator for the LA Free Clinic. That worked out so well he then helped start over 60 free clinics around California, Texas, Mexico and Haiti.
In his 20's and 30's he played guitar and harmonica in bands and coffee houses. He decided to return to college for his RN degree. He worked as an Occupational Nurse and Nurse Case Manager for 20 years. Kelly now plays weekly in the lobby of the WLA VA Hospital with his band "The Oldies But Goodies" for the vets.
He and his wife Angel, also play and sing weekly with The 5th Dementia band. They have matching "angel" tatoos. Kelly's "angel" is on his arm. Angel's "angel" is on her back....and she'd be happy to show you!
Pat Young - Singer
I am an 81 year old artist/painter, stone sculptor, writer, wife, mother and former entrepreneur. Oh, I almost forgot - I have Parkinson's Disease. I was diagnosed in 2007 while a student at UCLA. Despite the illness, I earned a BA in Art History...the oldest graduate in the class of 2009. I don't seem to have wasted a minute of my life. (Actually, if you haven't done this many things in 81 years what in hell have you been doing right?)
Burritt Newton - Harmonica
I'm an 83 year old retired physician, from a small farm in Ohio. I've been playing harmonica since I was 14, usually solo, but more recently with others playing string instruments. While living in Alaska, I played at Anchorage Pioneers' Home and practiced with a blue-grass band.
I have fathered 2 children, adopted 1, and step-fathered 3. I have 5 grandsons, 2 granddaughters (still in utero), and 1 great grandson.
I retired in 2005 and moved to LA to live full-time with my psychologist wife of 19 years. Knowing that I wanted to continue playing harmonica for people, I met the activities directors of several nursing homes, rehab centers, and retirement homes and joined a harmonica band in Culver City. Currently I play with an amateur band at the VA hospital and with the 5th Dementia Band (for which I qualify by virtue of having mild Parkinson's disease).
The remainder of my time is spent on house repairs, gardening, reading, walking our 2 dogs; and with my wife, movies, plays, concerts, restaurants, and traveling. I love my life!
Carol Jean Hicks - Singer and Guitar
Other than singing with fine musicians, chatting with lovely people and learning new songs, my favorite part about this band is having a Microphone!!! Note: You have to sing “microphone” with a rich, warbly voice like Joanne Whorley from “Laugh In” if you are old enough to remember her.
I’ve been singing as long as I can remember. I have a pleasant voice but it’s very soft and therefore not star material. But don’t most of us grew up wishing to be a bright light? That’s how the band makes me feel every time I join in with the microphone in my hands. Like the line in one of our songs, “No, no you can’t take that away from me!
I have been singing for at least 60 years. I have had Parkinson’s Disease for the last 10 but more recently have been trying not to break any more bones. Is there a funny song about osteoporosis? Somebody please write one! I credit family and friends for my good spirits, endless curiosity, and love of life.
Angel Amulis-Hodel - Singer and Volunteer
I am born and raised in LA. My mother would sing to my brother and I at night. When she would stop, then I would sing to my brother. He would say "Sing another one Angel". My mom got a kick out of that. That's why I know and love all the songs from the 1940's - 1960's. My mother developed Alzheimer's and I was her caregiver until she died.
I worked as an RN for 23 years where I specialized in mental health. Fortunately I've never had depression but I find the working of our minds fascinating and used music as therapy/relaxation to excellent effect throughout those years.
I've been married to the true love of my life, Kelly, for 9 years. We met at the VA. We've been having a ball and enjoying our retirement. We volunteer at the VA where we make music in the lobby each week, go to costume parties, and visit with Kelly's kids (3), grandkids (5) and great-grandkid (1). Life is good!!
Michael Meyer - Violinist
Michael hails from Germany. He earned a BA, MA and Ph.D in history at UCLA and later taught at CSUN for 40 years. He has played the violin continuously since age five with his siblings who were also musical. He and his wife Miriam met while at UCLA and have 2 daughters and 1 grandkid. Michael is an avid soccer player. Michael's dementia has not affected his musical ability or his love of playing his violin with The 5th Dementia.
Bob Levin - Singer
Bob is an oral surgeon who has been singing and performing in musical theater his whole life. Having recently found The 5th Dementia band, his heart is bursting with joy.
Diana Davidow - Singer
Diana is a speech therapist, counselor, philanthropist and painter. She is a singer and performer and loves to tap dance. She is thrilled that her daughter Meredith has joined The 5th Dementia band as a vocal coach so that they can spend this weekly time together. Her Parkinson's doesn't slow her down in the least. She boxes regularly and would like a pair of yellow and gray boxing gloves in case anyone wants to know.
Don Maltzman - Singer
Don built and ran an automotive company for 30 years. He and wife Joni have been married for 55 years and have 3 sons and 5 grandkids. In addition to writing songs and singing them for everyone, Don's hobbies include golf and tennis.
Gail Buckley - Singer
Gail at 77 is still traveleing the world and is now offering travel workshops for others with Parkinson's Disease. As a member of the Board of Directors of Parkinson's Community Los Angeles, she is on the lookout to promote fun and therapeutic programs like Music Mends Minds and The 5th Dementia band. When Gail is home, she can be found exercising, singing, gardening, painting or hanging with her granddaughter, Stella.
Gary Le Mel - Singer
Born in London, during WWII, to a family that was seriously into music, Gary LeMel grew up in Tuscon, AZ and came to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career. He worked as a professional jazz and pop singer and put out several of his own albums before taking a "real job" to support his family. That job eventually morphed into Gary becoming the President of Warner Bros. Music Division for many years where he worked on many hit film soundtracks. Gary’s wife, Maddy LeMel is an artist and they have 3 children and 1 grandchild, who all love and listen to music constantly. Gary holds an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Arizona. Lewy Body Dementia doesn't stand in his way of singing and performing with The 5th Dementia. The first time he performed a solo at Music Mends Minds, women cried and later swarmed around him, caressing him, hoping he was a widower. (This according to Maddy) His harmonic rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is crazy good. Stop by a 5th Dementia rehearsal and have a listen.
Ken Butterworth - Singer
Ken was the CEO and Chairman of Loctite Corporation Worldwide which he turned into a Fortune 500 company. He now lives with his third and fifth wife Margreth and beloved dog, Charley, in Santa Monica. He dances in the aisle with Carol upon entering the church rehearsal each week before taking his place on stage to sing.
Len Doerfler - Conductor
Len worked in the Montebello Schools where he served as a beloved teacher, counselor, Vice Principal and district administrator. He is a lifelong music lover with a wonderful zest for life. At age 95, Len gets teary eyed at rehearsals from emotional lyrics so his wife Adele always has tissues on hand. Conducting a band was on Len's bucket list and he can now check that box.
Leola Davis - Singer
Leola is 90 years old and a 2nd generation Angeleno, whose introduction to music came through playing piano and singing in church. She was a teacher, reading resource specialist and school administrator for 38 years with LAUSD. You can tell when Leola enters the rehearsal space because the light always gets a little brighter. Alzheimer's hasn't affected her smile in the least.
Sam Keeney - Singer
Sam has lived and worked in LA his entire life as a real estate administrator. He and his wife Gilda enjoy singing and socializing each week at band rehearsal and feel that The 5th Dementia has brought a sense of renewal into their lives.
Carolyn Hamilton - Singer
Carolyn grew up in upstate NY. She attended St. Mary's College in Indiana where she met her husband, Bernie. Carolyn worked as a teacher in LA, then later got her Masters of Library Science from Rutgers University and became a librarian. She and Bernie have travelled the world together. They have 3 children, 4 grandchildren and a beloved dog, Chico. In addition to singing with The 5th Dementia band, Carolyn and Bernie go to the men's jail in downtown LA every Sunday to sing with a choir for about 60 inmates. Carolyn has Alzheimer's but her weekly 5th Dementia rehearsals and Sunday choir songs are not hindered by that. Whenever there is the possibility for Carolyn to yell a "whoop" during a song, the entire group of men join in with her. It's everyone's favorite part of church....Carolyn and her "whoops".