Sandra Freund directs a Sing for Joy! choir practice. Courtesy photo


When lifelong music educator Sandra Freund visited area retirement communities to sing for the residents, she noticed that many initially would sit quietly, their heads bowed. But after a bit, she says, their attitudes would change. “Their heads would come up and they would start singing along,” Freund says. After one performance, an employee said that one elderly resident, who had not spoken or communicated for three months, had sung along with Freund.     

“The experience stayed with me and has been a powerful motive to make sure music is part of all senior citizens’ lives,” says Freund, 71, a retired soprano soloist. She’s fulfilling that objective by directing the Sing for Joy! choir. Open to the public, the choir appeals to the interests and abilities of senior citizens, but all ages are welcome. 

The choir, associated with the Area 10 Agency on Aging, began rehearsing in April at Bell Trace Senior Living Community with nine singers. Since then, more than 50 singers ages 18 to 99 have joined, with 25 to 40 singers rehearsing and performing at any one time. Singers living with dementia can join with care partners. 

Choir member Marlen Rust, 82, a Bell Trace resident, says singing has always been a big part of her life. “It’s good to sing with other people and share your love of singing,” she says.   

The group rehearses Wednesday afternoons and performs bimonthly at the Gentry Park Senior Living Community. The group’s Christmas concert is at 4 p.m., December 19. Freund says the group sings an eclectic mix of contemporary pop, spirituals, Broadway musicals, and jazz.

Retired as a choir director in 2013, Freund readily volunteered as director when asked by Susan Swaney, music director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington and an Indiana University adjunct faculty voice instructor, who originated the idea.

Freund says being choir director is a powerful gift to give others. “It really feeds your soul,” she says. 

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