Senior Center brings holiday music to Iowa City


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For one group of senior citizens, it's all about enjoying music and having fun. When Jackie Zwiefel tells her choir to do something during rehearsal, she's often met with a clever joke from one of the singers. She recalls once during a practice when she asked one of her group members to breathe for 12 counts.

"He says, 'Well I can only count to eleven,' " Zwiefel said. "You know, picture a 70-something-year-old man saying something like that."

Sponsored by the Senior Center, the Voices of Experience choir group is again hosting a holiday special, which the members have prepared for weeks of rehearsals. The winter concert will take place at the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St., at 2:30 p.m. today. Admission is free.

The group's mission statement is "to bring as much joy as possible to the members of the group and to those for whom we perform." With the help of UI students and professors, the group has blossomed into a well-polished performing choir.

UI graduate student Zwiefel has helped conduct the group since last year, and she has temporarily taken the job as director in place of UI Assistant Professor Mary Cohen, who will return in the spring. Zwiefel said it's been a joy working with the seniors.

"I'll have classes in the morning, then I go to the Senior Center in the afternoon," she said. "It just really changes your mood for the day."

Cohen said she looks forward to returning to the group. She has been working with the choir for a number of years to help teach the seniors as well as music students interested in the art of choral performance and education.

"I really enjoy combining my university teaching with community engagement," she said. "It worked well to offer my students some practical, hands-on learning opportunities and get to direct people who really enjoy singing."

Zwiefel says that the group has a wide range of talent, from expert singers to beginners and rehearsals are a great time.

"[Rehearsals] are great. I have a lot of fond memories of just funny things that they've said," Zwiefel said. "When everything comes together, and we're performing, and they just enjoy the music, then you can see the audience enjoying it as well. Performances, that's my one-word answer."

The concerts have a large portion dedicated to sing-a-longs with the audience, something the seniors enjoy the most about the shows, Zwiefel said.

"The seniors are very receptive. They're such a welcoming group. They always welcome the students to come watch or sing-a-long," she said. "If we have students come, they'll talk to the students afterwards or just encourage them in whatever they're doing."

She encourages people to attend the choir both as performers and audience members. She says they're "continually looking to build the group," and they also enjoy it when people come to listen.

"It's such a joy to work with them. It's just very fulfilling and I know that they're having a good time, so that makes it very enjoyable for me as well," Zwiefel said. "It's just really great."

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