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A screenshot of a virtual call between a TSYO member and a senior citizen
2019/20 Annual Letter

Socially Connecting with Seniors through Music

September 29, 2020

The devastating impact of the pandemic on seniors living in long-term care homes left the TSO asking the question: how can we help? Managing outbreaks in these homes meant that no visitors were permitted to spend time with their loved ones, leaving residents socially isolated and lonely. 

The TSO’s Education & Community Engagement Department mobilized quickly to develop a program that would allow members of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO) to connect with residents virtually with a performance and social interaction. “Over the past year, we’ve been having strategic discussions about how the TSO can meaningfully interact with our community in a way that enriches their lives, and, at the same time, supports a healthier environment,” said CEO Matthew Loden. “When the pandemic hit, we were in a position to truly realize that commitment.”

Within weeks, members of the TSYO were going through training led by Room 217 Foundation—a music-based health organization—on finding points of connection with seniors. Baycrest Health Sciences came on board to launch the program, and it’s had a wonderful response from residents. “It was very enjoyable...and a good opportunity for the students to perform!” said Baycrest residents Robert and Marlene Ruderman.

When the Honourable Lisa MacLeod, Ontario Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, joined one of the calls between a senior and young musician, she commented, “This TSO program is a wonderful example of how arts, and in particular, music can impact people in deeply personal ways, but also help shape the way our community gets through this unprecedented time. Ontarians should be very proud of the way the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is serving its community.”

Watch a virtual visit between members of the TSYO and Baycrest residents.