UI students create songs with local seniors


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Dreams, fears, time priorities, and successful aging.

These themes began as discussion topics among University of Iowa students and Iowa City senior citizens, and they are now the focal points behind two songs written based on the conversations.


UI Interdepartmental Studies coordinator David Gould had his Aging and Leisure class meet with people at the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St., three times during the semester to discuss life lessons, aging, and beliefs. Gould told The Daily Iowan in August his goal for the project was to show "what we're talking about in lecture really applies in the real world."

The students and seniors rehearsed the songs Monday, which were composed by two "music facilitators." John Cryer, a former UI statistics and actuarial science professor, and UI student Chaz'men Williams-Ali wrote the music and lyrics, respectively, based on assignments turned in by students in the class.

"Our game plan tonight is to have fun," Gould said before rehearsal began. "The idea is to just have fun and sing loud and pretend no one else is here."

Both seniors and students sang the song from the students' perspective with UI music major Williams-Ali, titled "One Step At A Time," which he said is not yet lyrically complete.

He said the advice the students gave the students on various life topics was taken into consideration while he wrote the song.

"We have a lot more questions on the students' side," he said. "This one took a lot more time; it was really one step at a time … that's how you do anything. Any journey starts with a step."

While helping the group warm up their voices, Williams-Ali guided different portions of the group to sing different vocal parts. After meek participation from each vocal part, he said, "So, it looks like we're gonna be more comfortable in unison?" which brought laughter from both groups.

Putting emotion into singing voices was something Williams-Ali emphasized to motivate the group to sing.

"We are here to make music from the heart … this is something that was born out of the heart, out of you guys," he said. "This comes from a place that we can directly identify with."

He directed the group in rehearsing the song written from the seniors' perspective, titled "I Have A Dream."

Cryer, who represented the senior perspective, sang the verse for the song from the seniors' perspective while both students and seniors sang the chorus.

Both songs will be recorded Dec. 5. The students' final for the semester will be a paper in which the students must include references to their discussions with the seniors.

Gould said the recording date will be the last time both groups meet, and it will be followed by a "wrap party." The songs will then be put on a CD for each person involved.

UI senior Yael Cadji, who is minoring in leisure studies, said she was able to identify with one of the seniors in particular.

"One of the women in my group, she was really similar to me," Cadji said. "You could tell she was spunky when she was young."

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