We had the good fortune of connecting with Cristina Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cristina, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Over seven years, I’ve devoted my life to bringing one of humanity’s gifts, music, to connect individuals living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and related neurological impairments with younger generations.

I have witnessed the power of music and human connection in transforming seniors’ moods and helping them regain pieces of themselves that may have seemed lost forever while instilling purpose and empathy in younger generations.

Music is the universal language and it allows for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to connect. Music evokes emotion and memories which allow us to open up much more quickly than with just dialogue.

Through one-hour interactive sessions, seniors living with Alzhiemer’s and young musicians and volunteers create a collaborative music experience. The sessions begin with a musical warmup to welcome the group or individual.

Live music is performed from the 30s-70s by our intergenerational team throughout the session to evoke memories which in turn lead to a deeper connection through conversation and/or non-verbal communication through body language. Musical activities like playing hand-held instruments, drums, singing-along, and utilizing props like scarves, ribbons, and shakers help create an engaging experience where everyone is actively participating resulting in an elevated mood for everyone involved.

Seniors in our sessions engage socially, cognitively, creatively, and experience an average 30% increase in a positive mood as documented by our Behavioral Analysis Report. We’ve watched residents go from despondent in the corner to alive and singing again, enjoying life.

Our music sessions are just as impactful for our seniors as they are for our musicians. Our programs build confidence and mold young musicians into leaders. Musicians self-reporting on their mood before and after sessions show 27% improved mood.

The musicians walk out of the sessions with their heads held high, feeling good that they can use their skills to impart happiness in others while building intergenerational relationships.

What should our readers know about your business?
The intersection between art and science has always fascinated me. I started the cello at 10, and at age 14, while I volunteered at a hospital, the concept of Mind&Melody occurred to me: I dreamt of making music accessible to people that would benefit from it. I wanted to bring music to older adults while engaging young people in the process.

My personal experience at a Memory Clinic changed my life forever. I met a gentlemen named David who had memory loss and would sit hunched over his wheelchair, not smile, or make much eye contact and I thought I was never going to be able to reach him. Until one day I found out he was a professional violinist.

So I brought in a viola, put it in his hand and he began to play flawlessly. I saw his face light up and smile and It was the first time we saw the real David. This is when Mind&Melody began.

In 2014, Lauren and I started with $300 in the bank. We didn’t have an idea of how we were going to run this organization but we believed in the idea so much that we knew eventually we would figure it out. Eventually, we did, and now we serve over 650 seniors and children with neurological impairments in over 40+ facilities in South Florida. Our programs are tailored to the needs of the individuals. Our sessions musicians use their musical talent, passion, dedication, and compassion to provide social stimulation and connect with seniors in a special way. We offer different program options in-person and online varying on clients budgets ranging from weekly, bi-weekly, monthly sessions.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I enjoy beautiful scenery, good company, and food! Throughout the week, we’d visit some places around town. In Coconut Grove and we’d go to Green Street Café in Coconut Grove for brunch and then go for a walk at Barnacle Park.

For a night out we’d visit Ball & Chain or Café La Trova for Live music and dinner in Little Havana.

I love coffee so we’d be making several stops throughout the week at Brewing Buddha in Pinecrest and Panther Coffee in Coconut Grove.

While in Key Biscayne we’d visit Piononos bakery (the Pavlova is incredible) and go for a walk at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

Ending with a weekend trip to Key Largo/Key West or explore Dry Tortugas National Park which I’ve never been to but would love to visit!

Can’t forget to eat at La Carreta and of course, drink a cortadito with leche evaporada and my favorite empandas at Patagonia Nuyen in Doral.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Building something bigger than ourselves is only possible through the collective energy, effort, and love of people who see the same vision. Mind&Melody began when I met one person who believed in the idea and the impact would create in the world. That person was Lauren Koff, my co-founder. Lauren’s commitment and passion helped push through all the obstacles we faced and helped build Mind&Melody.

My mom has been my biggest supporter and believed in me before anyone else did. A catalytic person in Mind&Melody’s growth has been, board member, Jim Ryan. From the moment I met Jim, he has always been extremely supportive and has played a critical role in the development of Mind&Melody’s business model. Eric Guitian began as a musician at Mind&Melody and quickly became extremely resourceful. He became Mind&Melody’s Program Director and really has been the glue in our organization and we wouldn’t be where we are now without him.

The musicians that have been part of Mind&Melody over the years have brought their love, joy, and compassion to share with our participants and I’m grateful for all those musicians that have been part of our program. There are some special musicians who have been with us over the years and I’d like to give a special thanks to Amelia Rosenfeld, Hector Herrera, Bryanna Shaw, Chris Alvy, Cathleen Peel, Catherine Magarino, and Francisca Munoz for keeping the dream alive.

Website: www.mindandmelody.org

Instagram: info_melody

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cristina-rodriguez-68391760/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/infomindandmelody

Image Credits
BESE Amanda Smith Photography

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