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Lisa Peterson hopes to bring young children and seniors together in song and dance.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Lisa Peterson plays the ukulele and leads the group in a song toward the end of a preview class for a Music Together Generations series.Lisa Peterson loves music, and she believes in its power to engage, educate and even heal people both young and old.

The Cornelius-area resident and licensed music therapist is starting a series of Music Together Generations classes with the intent of bringing together young children, their parents and older adults at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center. Weekly classes begin Thursday, Jan. 11.

"Over these 10 weeks, I'm hoping to immerse families and their little ones and 'grand-friends' in a rich musical experience, so we can build relationships, so the kids can learn the building blocks of music in … a play-based way," Peterson said.

Music Together is an international program based in New Jersey. The company that offers the program has a music- and movement-based curriculum and songbooks for educators to use, including the Music Together Generations series, which includes both seniors and young children.

At a preview class Thursday, Jan. 4, one of the attendees said she was 93 — about nine decades older than the four children at the class. She smiled and told the rest of the group that she remembered being their age and the fun she had then.

Most of the children seemed to enjoy the preview class, with one girl giving Peterson a big hug at the end. Jessica McGregor, who came with her two young boys, said she thinks they will come back for the full 10-week semester.

"We like to do music at home, and I thought that the class would be a fun, more focused option — or more organized," McGregor said. "A place to play and sing and dance with friends. … This was a lot of fun."

Some of the songs Peterson are teaching can be personalized to include, for instance, the names of participants in the class or some of the sounds they hear at home.

"This is where they can bring their life into the music class," Peterson said, "and hopefully take the music class into their life."

While Peterson's background is in music therapy — she leads biweekly therapy sessions at the Forest Grove Rehabilitation & Care Center — she doesn't describe this series of classes at the senior center as therapy.

When Peterson works with older adults at the rehab center, she said, she will set goals with her patients and try to work toward specific positive outcomes. With the families and older adults at the senior center, though, what she wants is for people to just have fun, get moving and learn more about music. She hopes to see children "getting their musical building blocks, being able to sing on pitch and dance or move to the rhythm" as a result of the class.

"I think it helps connect the two sides of their brain, the left and right hemispheres," Peterson said.

Even still, there is "a lot of overlap," she added.

"This group, we're focused more on the kids with the two generalized goals of being able to sing on pitch and move to the rhythm," Peterson said. "But what actually happens in the group is very therapeutic. … The results are very similar, but we don't call it therapy."

The Music Together Generations classes at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center will be held every Thursday from 10 to 10:45 a.m. for 10 weeks. Attendees are asked to register online at in advance for the full 10-week semester.

The cost for one child is $170. Discounts are offered for additional children, with $140 for the second child and $120 for the third. Siblings under 8 months old can attend for free. Seniors can pay $40 for the full semester or drop in for a class for a $5 fee.

Peterson said she is exploring options, such as local sponsorships, to reduce or waive registration fees for those who want to attend classes but cannot afford them.

If all goes well, Peterson said she hopes to begin offering multiple classes per week throughout the year.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Jessica McGregor plays with Wally Janik, 4, during a Music Together class at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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