A Music Teacher With Dementia Defies All Odds to Conduct an Orchestra at Age 81: ‘It Made Me Feel Alive’
Music is a beautiful thing, and very few things can compare. The careful arrangement of notes and lyrics can make or break your day depending on what you are listening to. Some studies have even shown that playing your favorite track can boost your mood immensely.
In this article, a man struggles with a neurological condition that mostly leaves people disoriented. Yet, surprisingly, despite the challenges that came with it, Paul still managed to chart his path in the music world. He even attributes music to his survival.
Music Is a Mystery
Despite endless studies done on it, music remains a mystery. It’s hard to explain how someone can lose most of his memories but still manage to hum his favorite tune. In some cases, people struggling with memory loss and other significant conditions have managed to carry on with their music careers despite what they were going through.
It is as if music’s hold on memory is so strong it’s hard to shake off. Eighty-one-year-old Paul Harvey is an excellent example of this phenomenon, and his story is impressive.
It Was Not Looking Good
When Paul Harvey was diagnosed with dementia, things were not looking good. Like everyone else in his shoes, he was expected to prepare for the inevitable decline in his mental faculties. At first, Paul moved to sheltered accommodation for safety purposes to enable him a smooth transition.
Interestingly, the man never quit his job as a music teacher, and despite the challenges, his career has not suffered that much. Instead, he achieved a big dream despite the odds stacked against him.
The Gift of Teaching
As a music teacher, Paul had the resources and ability to compose his music. Sadly, all these years had passed, and his work might not have gotten the attention it deserved. When his diagnosis came, all hope was lost, and Paul’s dream was now less plausible.
Luckily, life had other plans as this man was about to experience a monumental moment thanks to his son and the wonders of technology. Of course, his musical acumen had a part to play as well.
A Moment in Time
One day, Paul was going about his daily routine with his son Nick around when the lad noticed something interesting. Despite suffering from an incredibly frustrating illness, Paul was still actively making music.
Mr. Harvey was improvising a two-minute piece from four notes. This in itself is impressive but add a dash of dementia to the mix, and you have yourself an incredible moment. Thinking fast, Nick recorded his dad in his glorious moment, not knowing this video would have a snowball effect.
Making Dad Go Viral
After his dad finished showcasing his talents, Nick went online and posted the video. Shortly after it went up, the clip got a lot of views. Everyone who watched it was impressed not only by Paul’s skill alone but also by the story behind it all.
There had been rumblings in the medical community that music can survive memory loss, but it hadn’t been showcased like this. This clearly showed that music therapy might be a viable option for most people struggling with dementia.
The Story of the Decade
Nick’s upload resonated with so many people online that news outlets picked up the story. That’s how his father was invited to showcase his talent on live TV. The performance was broadcasted from Paul’s home, and many more people grew to love the old man.
Paul’s performance on Breakfast TV was the stepping stone he needed all his life because it cemented his work and showcased his talent. The BBC Philharmonic orchestra noticed the musician and started playing his stuff.
One Year Later, Things Got Better
A year after his moment, the BBC orchestra called on Paul to conduct two of his compositions at the iconic studio in Salford. Paul Harvey dreamt of getting this opportunity all these years, and here he was. The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise, after all.
Paul was now working with an actual orchestra to hold the performance of a lifetime. Moreover, the BBC Philharmonic orchestra was interested in his original compositions to make things even better! It doesn’t get any better than this.
Two of the Best
Mr. Harvey beat the odds and conducted two of his best picks perfectly. One of the compositions is aptly named Where’s the Sunshine, and we believe the rays were shining bright in this man’s path. It was a big moment for him, but there was more.
While Paul did his part, Nick played the piano in the orchestra. After all, music runs in the family, and the father-son duo is doing amazing things together. Emotions ran high, and everyone had a great time.
The Big Release Is Here
The orchestra recorded the performance and released it as a single so fans of Paul could listen and enjoy his work. Interestingly, despite all the profit they were set to gain from this single, no one took a cent. Instead, all the proceeds went to the Alzheimer’s Society and Music for Dementia.
These campaigns are on the front line trying to ensure patients with neuro-degenerative diseases get access to their favorite tunes. Not only that, but they also get them for free as part of their care.
Looking Up to His Father
In his post online, Nick was clear that his father’s skill always took his breath away. Likewise, Paul’s improvisation and composition on the fly have always inspired his son. So that day, Nick gave his father four notes to start, and the man took things to the next level
Unfortunately, Paul’s condition worsened, but the music kept him together. Nick always looked forward to hearing his father play because it was one of the few times he was himself.
It Was a Major Milestone
The orchestral performance was a significant milestone for Paul Harvey, and he didn’t hide his delight. He was grateful for the opportunity but even more glad he finally got to experience his dream.
Shockingly, this was the man’s first performance in a while, making this story even better. Paul was winning in life despite the challenges before him. He’s an excellent example of making lemonade from the lemons life throws at you.
He Was Born Around It
So, where did Paul get his skills from? Mr. Harvey has been around music all his life. The elderly gentleman studied piano at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music, where he honed his skills, becoming an expert pianist and composer.
The guy was so good; his Rumba Toccata is part of the grade 6 piano exams. This man left a legacy so tough it is used as a benchmark for future candidates! Say what you will about the story, but dementia aside, Paul Harvey is a phenomenon.
The Life of a Maestro
After finishing his studies, Paul taught at the Imberhorne school, where he maintained his position for over two decades. This decision was, however, made shortly before Nick was born. Music is a challenging career, and it only gets more complicated once a kid is on the way.
With such fatherly sacrifice, it’s no surprise Nick never left his father’s side despite the challenges. The man is even responsible for putting Paul on the map, showing the duo’s tight bond.
Happy to See Dad
As for Nick, he was happy to see his dad brighten up. Since the video went viral and interest in Paul’s work started increasing, the sound man has been in high spirits. It was such a massive paradigm shift that Nick and his brothers couldn’t help but beam with joy.
The boys were proud of their 81-year-old dad, who was living his dream. Of course, this is the inspiration most parents dream of, but here was Paul, pulling things off in the midst of his grievous challenge.
That Is Real Love
As for the fans, they proved their mettle when Paul’s single came out. Nick kept them as updated as possible on his socials, and sooner than later, he had some good news. The single was at the top of the charts!
Clearly, Paul Harvey’s work was not a fluke, and many people resonated with it. Usually, people lose interest after the hype dies down, but in this case, the Harveys had cultivated a dedicated fanbase that was ready to ride with them till the end.
Proving His Mettle on the Big Stage
According to Nick, his dad’s short-term memory is quite problematic, but some events are seared into his mind whenever something significant happens. This experience is probably one of those moments, and we wonder if it will get lost in the haze like everything else.
After all, music is a big deal in Paul’s life, and he’s finally getting the chance to prove his mettle on the big stage. It took a long time and a scary diagnosis, but the end justifies the means.
The Positive Aspect of Music
After this experience with his father, Nick has only positive things to say about music. He believes in its power and insists you don’t need to be a talented musician to enjoy it. Instead, music can trigger various memories and moments in ways you cannot explain, bringing us closer.
Nick helplessly saw his dad slip away for the longest time, but every time Paul sat down in front of a piano, it was like taking a trip down memory lane.
He Became His Old Self
When Harvey Sr. took his place at the piano, his mood changed, and he became his old self again. This naturally warmed Nick’s heart, and he was happy to see his father in his good graces. That is why he decided to take the video and upload it for the world to see.
We are glad Nick posted the clip because it has helped many people power through some dark days. Not only is Paul’s story a tear-jerker, but also a major highlight.
Don’t You Give Up
Once Paul got his groove back, he became unstoppable. Nick claims his father has played the piano more in this period than he has in the past eight years. All Paul needed was a sign to keep him grounded.
After decades in the industry with a few accolades to show, Paul is now a celebrated musician whose story will echo through time. Additionally, doctors and experts are using his case as a focal point of study on the positive effects of music.
Music Is the Cure
Recently, more people have started using music to help dementia patients, and the results prove worthwhile. The correlation between music and such ailments is more robust than we ever thought. They say music speaks to the soul, and this might be the proof needed to cement that statement.
Paul Harvey’s case is an excellent example of how it works, but it is not the only way you can apply music to a patient’s recovery plan. Nevertheless, the benefits are evident.
Play Your Favorite Playlist
We agree that only some are musical maestros like Paul, so how do you develop a way to include music in their routine? Again, it’s straightforward, and you don’t need to overthink things.
If you have a dementia patient in your care, you can try playing their favorite tunes and see what happens. Look for songs they liked before their memories started slipping away, and you might be surprised how positively they respond to the songs.
Pull Out the Rust
If you are dealing with someone well versed in the craft, giving them a chance to test out their rusty skills might help. In Mr. Harvey’s case, playing the piano was a huge step for the man.
So, whip out that guitar, harmonica, or triangle—whatever your patient has handy. Nothing is too significant or minute; everything can make a major difference. If things work out, you might have a merry band belting out some tunes in the living room.
The Love of Technology
On the other hand, technology has come a long way, and we have more access than ever. If your internet connection is favorable, you can find old clips of your patient’s favorite artists and play them. Sometimes, live streaming a concert can bring back some good memories.
The goal is to make these people as comfortable as possible and help them find themselves. Of course, we can’t pick and choose which memories can resonate, but what we know is sometimes a soundtrack can make a big difference.
Music and the Case of Dementia
It is evident there are many ways to bring music to the fold. However, as much as this approach has worked wonders for some, it is not a guarantee that it will always work. Dementia has no cure, so the results may vary significantly.
If music is not the thing for your person, you can still try it but don’t expect much. If it works, all well and good; if it doesn’t, try something else. After all, the goal is for them to be as comfortable as ever.
Watch Out for Trigger Warnings
Additionally, you must be careful because some songs might trigger your patient’s bad memories and emotions. Therefore, we recommend taking it slow and steady as you monitor the progress. Hopefully, you’ll land in the perfect groove soon.
With this in mind, we also recommend reaching out to friends and relatives of the patient to find out what might work for them. You’ll be surprised to find out how fantastic your elders once were. They might be cool, calm, and collected people today, but they were probably in a mosh pit rocking out to Sting years ago.
Know Your Audience, Please
On the flip side, a small percentage of people loathe music. This might sound like a myth, but this bunch is more common than you think. Strangely, it is not genre specific, as they don’t like listening to music.
Music therapy might not be the best approach if you have such a patient. So, if you are not careful, you might end up making things worse for both of you. In short, knowing your audience is a big part of this approach.
Don’t Give up Hope
As you can see, there are many ways to use music to your advantage. If it works, the results are magical and heartwarming. Nevertheless, we insist you don’t force it down people’s throats. Sometimes, things take time, or they don’t work at all.
Even so, don’t give up hope. You can always whistle your favorite tune around your patient, which might be enough to brighten someone’s day. After all, music is the ultimate soul soother. Just because it doesn’t work for someone else doesn’t mean it might not help another.
It’s the Cheapest Option
The best thing about music in all of this is that it’s free and readily available. You don’t need to keep stocking up or getting prescriptions. Instead, you can go online and get any song you want without any questions.
Come to think of it; this method is a win-win for both parties, as long as the patient enjoys it. It is a perfect bonding exercise where you get to know more about your patient. On the other hand, music also says a lot about a person.
The Sound of Music
Paul’s story is a fantastic journey that makes us want to put our best foot forward and keep grinding because no one knows when their breakthrough is coming. Moreover, it is an excellent example of how healthy bonds between fathers and sons work.
This story also makes us appreciate the work movements like Music for Dementia do because they help patients with dementia make the most of their lives. It sounds like a small thing, but access to music should always be appreciated and respected.