Featuring: Helen Gagel and Pam Butterfield


Helen Gagel (L) and Pam Butterfield know that singing is not only cool, but also a healthful pursuit for older adults.  They sing with the Encore Chorale in Evanston, IL.  They are pictured here at the 25th annual Aging Well Conference, where Encore entertained the attendees.

About Encore:  Washington, DC-based Encore Creativity was born of the Creativity and Aging Study at George Washington University in 2006.  The study measured mental, physical, and social benefits for older adults who had the opportunity to sing under a professional conductor. Encore’s Founder and Artistic Director, Jeanne Kelly, built on the results of that study to establish choirs for older adults in the Washington, DC area.  More information:  https://www.encorecreativity.org/

Jonathan Miller, founder and artistic director of Chicago a cappella, a professional vocal ensemble that enjoys high praise from both critics and audience, brought Encore to the Chicago area, initially as an affiliate of the national organization, now independent.  In just over two years, he has seeded seven choirs involving more than 350 older adults. This year, with his wife Sandra Siegel Miller, Jonathan launched the Good Memories Choir, serving people with early-stage dementia. More information: https://encoreillinois.org/

Helen Gagel, who has served on Chicago a cappella’s board of directors for 12 years, was eager to help Jonathan Miller launch Encore in Evanston, not only as a singer herself, but also based on her experience leading North Shore Village, an aging-in-place community organization, and her service on the Age Friendly Evanston Task Force.  Helen called on her Evanston network to help find rehearsal space for Encore and to publicize the chorale, now in its third season.

Pam Butterfield, a former school social worker, joined Encore in its first season.  About the experience, she says, “Singing with others is cool because the joy that you experience in hearing your song internally is made more glorious by sharing the music.”



The photo above shows eight people who served as VISTA volunteers in Reserve, LA in 1968.  We gathered in New Orleans to celebrate our 50th anniversary.  (VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America, which was founded in the early 1960s as the “domestic Peace Corps.”  The program is now part of Americorps.)  At the time, we were fresh-faced kids just out of college who thought we could save the world.  Fifty years later, we are not quite so fresh-faced, but we still believe that we can—and should—make a difference in the world by being involved in community service and political and social action.  We all agreed that we are still cool after all these years.