September 4, 2018 6:48 pm
Updated: September 5, 2018 1:46 pm

Benefits of belting out a tune: Vocal therapy program in Kelowna uses singing to strengthen diminishing voices

WATCH ABOVE: A group of singers strengthen their voices through a unique vocal therapy program called SongShine Kelowna.

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SongShine Kelowna is a free music-based vocal program specifically for those whose voices are weakened due to Parkinson’s disease, neurological disorders, stroke or aging.

Singing, diction and articulation exercises are used in a fun, creative way to engage participants, build emotional engagement and strengthen vocal cords.

The program was designed using the science of neuroplasticity: the concept that the human brain can retrain, reorganize and change over time.

Rewiring the brain through stimulating alternative brain pathways is the method used to facilitate speech recovery.

READ MORE: Alan Alda reveals battle with Parkinson’s disease

SongShine Kelowna facilitator, Sylvia Clerke, has been involved with the group since its inception in 2012.

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“Parkinson’s disease takes away vocal ability. People become very isolated because they can no longer be heard. They can’t even talk on the phone. So my primary thing is that I help them with vocal strength,” Clerke said. “And with a lot of work then you can start to speak again.”

Carole Taylor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. She joined SongShine three years later and has experienced first-hand the benefits of joining the class.

“It does make a difference because you continue to stretch the vocal cords and work those muscles that you’re speaking with or singing with,” Taylor said.

READ MORE: Ask the Doctor: Parkinson’s disease

In addition to the physical perks, there are plenty of social benefits to joining the group.

“It is so much a social thing,” Clerke said. “Some of the people here do not get out except on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

Garry Toop has been an active member of the group for years. Two brain surgeries have dramatically reduced his Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Toop is now working on maintaining his vocal speech.

“They are a muscle so we do exercises that help out with that. It’s been really beneficial,” Toop said. “It’s also the comradery and fellowship we have from the group. It’s fantastic.”

The vocal therapy group has about 20 to 30 active participants and performs publically on occasion.

“We had 100 people in here,” Toop said, remembering the last concert they held. “Standing room only, and it was really well received.”

The group is involved with the Parkinson SuperWalk fundraiser taking place on Sept. 8 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Waterfront Park in Kelowna.

SongShine Kelowna meets every Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Seventh Day Adventist Hall at Gordon and Springfield.

For more information on the free program, please contact choir leader Sylvia Clerke at 250-869-9323.

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