SingAble brings community together

An inter-generational community choir made possible by the Camrose Association of Community Living and Ardelle Ries, professor at the U of A Augustana Campus, receives praise from the province for fostering inclusion.

Tia Lalani - 07 June 2019

Dan Jensen and Esther McDonald from the Camrose Association for Community Living, along with Augustana professor Ardelle Ries, received the Alberta Council of Disability Services 2019 Innovation Award.

By Lori Larsen

Totally unaware of the full impact an idea placed into a suggestion box could possibly have, Camrose Association for Community Living support worker Dan Jensen graciously admits how happy he is to see SingAble, a community-based choir, become such a win/win initiative. With the University of Alberta Augustana Campus, and specifically, the incredible talent and warm persona of associate professor of music Ardelle Ries on board, the idea quickly became a reality.

Since those humble beginnings back in the Fall of 2018, when SingAble melded into a strong voice of the community at the first rehearsal on Oct 2, the choir has flourished and is making its mark on ears and hearts, not only in Camrose but throughout the province as well.

The Camrose Association for Community Living and University of Alberta Augustana Campus, through the work with SingAble, recently received the Alberta Council of Disability Services (ACDS) Innovation Award 2019, recognizing innovators in the community disability sector. ACDS is a provincial organization consisting of a membership that provides services to people with disabilities.

"Innovation awards are presented to organizations (individuals) who address an issue within the disability sector," explained Esther McDonald, CAFCL chief executive officer. "The issue we are addressing with SingAble is inclusion, social bonding and mental wellness."

McDonald indicated that another criteria of the award was to demonstrate what the benefits (of the chosen initiative) were to the community, in particular people with disabilities.

Ries noted the many benefits music has physically, socially and mentally.

"In terms of the social benefit for us (through SingAble), community building that happens. Singing together means our hearts are beating together in time to the music, we are breathing together in time to the music and research shows that when one is experiencing music together everyone's brain waves are in sync as well. In terms of benefits to the community, we have achieved our goals."

Jensen expressed his thoughts on the benefits SingAble has given to the community. "I think that SingAble has three winners: the community is able to explore their voices and love for music, the students of Augustana are exposed to different career options (such as CAFCL) and opportunities for research projects and university credit, and finally, marginalized individuals (as part of CAFCL and throughout the community) are able to explore different options for interacting with others and are able to discover music and musical expression."

Jensen continued, "This is a community award because it involves many people from the community as well as Augustana and CAFCL and I am so thankful for the support of everyone."

To continue reading, visit the Camrose Booster Online (pg 14).