When they can no longer paint, sing!

June 30, 2017

At some point in time, OMA artists can no longer participate because they are too weak, unmotivated or even actively dying. This is where Threshold Choir comes into the picture.

Threshold Choir (TC) is a national organization dedicated to providing comfort through bedside song to those near the end of life. Groups of two to four singers use simple, repetitive songs to soothe and comfort the people we serve. There are more than 125 TC chapters throughout North America. In February 2016, we started the first university-based chapter at Miami University as an extension of OMA. We use the same OMA principles of being fully present when we sing to individuals on the threshold of life and death.

The goal: Make kindness audible.

How it began

I attended a TC workshop conducted by Kate Munger, its founder, in 2006 and wanted to start a chapter ever since. But it wasn’t until 2015, nearly a decade later, when I finally was inspired to start Miami’s chapter. That year, I received a video of my father being sung to the day before he died. A local church group sang for him the song “Tinggal Sertaku” (“Abide with Me” in Indonesian). I was able to visit him in Bali a few months earlier, but I could not be by his side when he passed. The music seemed to bring him comfort — and, in a way, I was by his side when I experienced it from afar.

I was lucky enough to find very capable students in leadership positions to help me launch this chapter: Gifty Ashirifi (Choir Director), Marissa Stipek, Josie Rader, Anne Marie Misey, Josh Zak, Sophia Fremont, and Johanna Alexander. We worked hard at developing promotional materials, recruiting singers and learning the songs. Today, Threshold Choir Miami University (TCMU) has 17 committed members who have mastered the 20 core-songs and more.

How we learn

We learn by observing other TC chapters and attending regional and national TC gatherings. At these gatherings, we learn new songs and techniques to direct our choir, all while meeting wonderful people who derive joy from giving songs to others. We are assigned a coach who guides us through Skype calls.

We also learn by singing at the bedside of elders at a local nursing homes, a Hospice center and by holding song baths at our community arts center. In a song bath, we invite individuals to lay in a recliner at the center of a circle of TC singers and simply receive and enjoy the songs we sing to them. When asked how they felt afterwards, a song recipient said, “It’s like having angels around me. I really feel the love coming through your voices.”

How to participate

Find a TC chapter near you by going to the main TC website. To join the TCMU chapter in Oxford, OH, contact Elizabeth Lokon at lokonej@MiamiOH.edu or 513-529-2648.

Scripps OMA

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