'Alive Inside': Screening, lecture to explore the remarkable powers of music

'Alive Inside': Screening, lecture to explore the remarkable powers of music

Social worker Dan Cohen and filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett will present "Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory" at Rowan on Oct. 15.

Henry Dryer, 94, can express exactly what he feels when he hears Cab Calloway’s music from the headphones on an iPod.

“I’m crazy about music...beautiful music…beautiful sounds,” Dryer says in a YouTube video titled simply, “Man in nursing home reacts to hearing music from his era.”

“(It) gives me a feeling of love, romance. I feel a band of love, of dreams.”

That’s remarkable given that Dryer, in a nursing home due to dementia, doesn’t recognize his own daughter. He generally speaks one or two-word phrases. And yet, with music, he’s able to feel a deep, strong connection to his world, to his youth, to the sweet, poignant memories of his life.

“Music and Memory,” a non-profit organization established by social worker Dan Cohen in New York City, uses digital music players containing personalized music to the elderly and other individuals with chronic and severe health challenges.

In “Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory,” filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles Cohen’s work and captures the breathtaking, exhilarating moments—including Dryer’s—when music awakens the souls of the old, the sick, and the dying.

During an appearance at Rowan University on Monday, Oct. 15, at 6:30 p.m. in Pfleeger Concert Hall (Wilson Hall), Cohen and Rossato-Bennett will present a screening of the documentary and lead a discussion on how the power of music supports our understanding of ourselves—and creates connections with others.

“Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory” is free and open to the public.  

Over the summer, Lorin Arnold, dean of Rowan’s College of Communication & Creative Arts, saw Rossato-Bennett’s video of Dryer, which received seven million hits in a single week after going viral. She immediately got to work to bring Cohen and Rossato-Bennett to campus.

An expert in family communication, Arnold says most people realize the power of music to connect with young children who don’t yet speak. But with adults, we “narrow the ways we communicate,” she says, often limiting ourselves to speech.

“Alive Inside” demonstrates that there are other ways to communicate—and music is one of the most powerful, unifying forms, Arnold notes.

“Music strikes a chord with people. It reaches them on a level that’s absolutely gut,” Arnold says.

In addition to the evening presentation in Pfleeger Concert Hall, Cohen and Rossato-Bennett will discuss the Music & Memory project with students in a host of Rowan classes, including music education, radio/television/film, communication studies and journalism, educational psychology and with students at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU).

“Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory” is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the colleges of Communication & Creative Arts, Education, Performing Arts, Science and Mathematics and CMSRU.

For information about the “Alive Inside” event at Rowan, contact Arnold at arnold@rowan.edu.

For more on the documentary and the “Music and Memory Project,” visit www.ximotionmedia.com.