Author Archives: Caitlin Cacciatore

Sounds of Music Final Project Report

By Caitlin Cacciatore, Felicity Howlett, and Raquel Neris

Project Narrative

In March 2020, the world as we know it experienced a massive upheaval. The first case of COVID-19 in New York State was recorded on March 1st, 2020. A series of events followed, including Governor Andrew Cuomo declaring a state of emergency on March 6th, NYC guidance to avoid crowded public transit the following day, the March 12th closure of Broadway, and the declaration of a national state of emergency, as well as the World Health Organization’s announcement of a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020.

For many, life moved online. Non-essential jobs and nearly all events went virtual. Public schools, colleges, and universities closed their physical doors and transitioned to online learning. Zoom emerged early on as a serious contender for allowing us to continue meeting in groups in a synchronous manner. We were all isolated and lonely despite these virtual interventions, but even in the face of these challenges, we adapted and began to adjust to what became our “new normal.” Unfortunately, many elders were left without Internet connections, Internet-connected devices, and the digital literacy needed to operate such devices.

Digital Humanities (DH) has often overlooked the elderly community, perhaps in part because of the perceived and actual lack of digital literacy amongst seniors. However, the DH community is remiss to overlook our elders. Digital Humanities is fundamentally about humanizing, decolonizing, equalizing, and removing barriers to access in the digital world. The digital humanities field has committed itself to equality and equity in the technological sphere, yet a major demographic has been largely forgotten about. According to recent Census data, people over 65 constitute 16.5 percent of the population in the United States. If we extrapolate from population counts, this amounts to almost fifty-five million individuals from all walks of life.

The significance of bringing the elderly community into the technological fold cannot be understated. Despite an ongoing global health emergency, many people continue to live full, vibrant lives well into their ninth and tenth decades, and beyond. In a very visceral way, they and others of their generation built the world we are currently inhabiting. “According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 240,329 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II” were still alive in the year 2021. (National WWII Museum)

Isolation and loneliness are rampant amongst elders. Lockdowns combined with a fear of contracting COVID drove many seniors into their homes, with little outside interaction. Additionally, ten percent of the US population age 65 and older are homebound, or in need of home-based care, and cannot go out due to disabilities, illnesses, or other maladies. By providing a synchronous, virtual online music experience, we hoped to reach just a few of the millions of homebound seniors in the US. We wished to take a step in the direction of bringing homebound and isolated seniors into the purview of the Digital Humanities.

We envisioned the Sounds of Music as a step towards including an overlooked population in DH. Sounds of Music is far more than just an interactive online event; it’s a cultural experience, as well as a chance to socialize with others and share memories, thoughts, and songs. We built a website that hosts an Accessibility Toolkit, a guide to Internet connectivity and setting up and using Zoom, as well as a blog that describes our thought processes, provides suggested reading and online music programs similar to ours, and lays out our manifesto.

Sounds of Music has always been very much about people. People – from their wants and needs to their desires and limitations – have informed every part of our user-centric design, from our website to our pilot programs to our Accessibility Toolkits. We have defined the Sounds of Music by our target users amongst the elderly population and designed with the extreme user in mind. We envision a hypothetical individual with any combination of auditory, visual, or physical impairments and/or disabilities – an elder who might have a computer and an Internet connection, but who feels uncomfortable and out of place in the digital world. This individual’s feelings are compounded by disability, and frustration at not being able to navigate websites in the same manner as a non-disabled person might, due to barriers to access.

We are committed to making the Sounds of Music accessible to all who might wish to partake in our music enrichment program. We were driven by the belief that music should be for everyone and anyone who wishes to listen, and we wish for our communal experience to be an uplifting, joyous one. We believe in creating a safe, inclusive space for those who enjoy music to discuss memories that arise, connections that present themselves, and other elements of the musical experience.

We wish for our audience to come away from the pilot program smiling and feeling connected and engaged. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, elderly individuals have not experienced the type of connections that they once enjoyed freely and without concern for their health. We seek to remedy this by providing an online, virtual environment that is both a safe space for sharing music and memories, as well as a community-building experience during which new friendships can be formed and maintained.

Ultimately, our vision is to build a bridge between the DH community and a hitherto understudied demographic – a demographic that we have found very receptive to technology, eager to learn, and quick to pick up on skills needed to navigate the online world.


The inspiration for our project comes from Concetta Tomaino’s music therapy program, “Music for Veterans,” at the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF). Executive director of IMNF, a certified music therapist, and former president of the American Association for Music Therapy, Tomaino is a scientist, humanist, and educator by inclination, and she has conducted extensive research on the interrelationships between music, neurology, and rehabilitation. Oliver Sacks, with whom she worked for many years, dedicated his book, Musicophilia, to her. She has presented lectures to a variety of national and international institutes and associations, and she teaches introductory courses in music therapy and “Music and the Brain” at Lehman College, CUNY.

Our team member, Felicity Howlett, volunteered as a piano player for the weekly veterans’ program at the IMNF residence in Wartburg, an adult care community in the Bronx. Participants included people who attended the Wartburg daycare programs and who suffered from various afflictions of the elderly, including early traces of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, physical handicaps, fragility, depression, and memory loss. Week after week, she witnessed how music participation created dynamic connections for people, how listening and talking about music inspired memories and discussion, and how music could transport individuals from an antisocial stance to a willingness to accommodate, to take a turn at the mike, tell a story, play an accompaniment with a simple instrument, sing along with the group, or even demonstrate dance steps.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the in-person program, “Music for Veterans” moved online and assumed a new shape. It was no longer possible to distribute drums, rattles, or other simple instruments for ensemble activities, and latency issues inhibited group singing and playing together. New possibilities included watching and discussing music videos together, singing along with a karaoke text provided on our screens, listening to individual solo performances or two or more people attempting to perform together, as well as the usual discussions inspired by the music. It became apparent that commitment to a weekly meeting,  stepping out of isolation and into a welcoming group, and meeting familiar faces, no matter how virtual, were powerful and restorative elements of the experience. The new arrangement created interest among people who were unable to attend weekly sessions in the Bronx, but we lost contact with several elderly people who did not have online access. 

When Howlett entered CUNY GC as a MALS student in the fall of 2020, academic participation was virtual. At least for business and education, tremendous efforts were underway to enable life to proceed as usual, but virtually, and often from private residences. As so much of the population was working from home, connectivity issues gained greater attention. This intense push for fluidity and interactivity had particular advantages for a population that had been relatively stranded, overlooked, and untapped—a population that, for one reason or another, could not leave home.

Our team focus is on a population that can enjoy a vacation from isolation by virtually participating with other people over the internet. While our program may prove to be therapeutically beneficial to its participants, we are simply providing a platform for people to enjoy sharing musical interests with one another through an interactive, online program.  Our project evolved as we explored how to create a structure for this purpose. While we do not mean to focus exclusively on the elderly, older people represent a significant segment of the population that tends to become more isolated with the passage of time, whether because of age, fragility, or various disabilities that accompany the aging process. Our interest is to combine the joy of music with an invitation for people to enjoy a social, participatory, recurring online event.

Through participation in such a virtual program, individuals may reconnect with parts of life they may have lost, or at least had to forego, due to their isolation. Doors may open for some people who have never had the opportunity to enjoy in-person community activities. For people who may feel that age or fragility is robbing them of their autonomy, the program presents an opportunity to appear among other people in real-time, to be recognized, and to share. Music serves as a revitalizing element in this arrangement, as impetus, substance, and a potential direction for exploration. It may also, simply, offer the opportunity to share in the joy of music.

Weekly participation in a social setting may encourage people to get to know other participants, foster interest, and concern for others, if, for example, someone misses a session. Friendships may blossom among people who discover shared interests, and as online activities become familiar, deeper individual explorations of the internet may lead people to other resources. The potential benefits of encouraging virtual participation for interested, homebound individuals over the internet are hampered only by what assistive devices are necessary to enable an individual to fully enjoy online interactive access. Our accessibility toolkit offers assistance for these issues, particularly for hearing problems, visual impairment, and physical handicaps. We also describe a selection of voice-empowered devices. Some potential participants will need to have assistive equipment installed or custom-tuned, and that may require individual attention, at least at the outset. As the benefits of internet participation for this population become more apparent, and greater attention is being paid to these issues, we hope that the segment that is most isolated will enjoy greater online access, share in the joy of music, and the pleasures of getting to know one another through virtual participation. 

Project Activities

At the beginning of our project, we had many ideas about how an interactive online experiential music program could be and what tools we could use to develop it. However, we were also aware that we had a biased vision. That could only be corrected by following a design thinking framework based on the premise of testing, learning, and iterating our ideas before officially launching it. Therefore, we followed these steps:

Step 1: Discover

We explored ways to better understand our audience’s needs and expectations, learned about assistive technologies and how they could enable handicapped individuals to attend our program, and researched other online music programs so that we could be inspired by them and understand how we could be different.

Step 2: Define

We generated different ideas for the program, and based on one format, we designed our prototype, which we called the “Pre-pilot Program”.

Step 3: Develop

We tested our prototype with an audience to receive feedback and understand what works (and what doesn’t work) for our program.

Step 4: Deliver

Based on our learnings, we iterated our program and created a second experience called our “Pilot Program”. 

We represent those steps visually as a Double-Diamond framework in the image below:

Double Diamond framework

The Double Diamond (adapted from British Design Council)

Work schedule and deliverables

The four-step framework that guided our project development involved a four-month effort focused on achieving these deliverables:

1) Sounds of Music Website

We developed a public-facing website using CUNY Academic Commons, powered by WordPress, presenting the Sounds of Music program with information about online access, assistive technologies, and latency issues, which are problems of real-time, synchronous communication in online meetings. We also presented a blog with relevant information about using music to engage in social interactions, suggested reading about music for a non-specialized audience, and our manifesto.

The website itself also presents special features regarding web accessibility, such as the options to change contrast and font size.

Sounds of Music website homepage

Sounds of Music Website

We established our website as our primary communication channel with the audience. However, we also plan on creating a Facebook page for the project, where we will disseminate updates about our program. The launch of our Facebook page should happen together with the program’s official launch. It will serve as a platform for building our audience, creating new content related to the Sounds of Music, and making public announcements.

2) Accessibility Toolkit

Our Accessibility toolkit was developed by collecting data from consulting experts in the field of Disability Studies and aggregating our research to find relevant information about assistive technologies and accessibility resources. Divided into two sections (First Steps and Assistive Technologies), it is offered to the audience as a downloadable PDF with important information for people with different disabilities to access our program. This document presents details about internet connection, how to use Zoom, and an overview of several assistive technologies. We offer a list of tools, including screen readers and text readers, screen magnification software, speech input software, physical pointers, motion tracking, and intelligent virtual assistants.

Sounds of Music Accessibility Toolkit

Sounds of Music Accessibility Toolkit

In addition to that, we also plan to provide a CSV file with information about each assistive tool. Both documents should be constantly updated so that our data doesn’t become obsolete.

3) Sounds of Music Workshop

Our Sounds of Music workshop is a predefined format for an online musical experience, with guidelines for conducting activities with the audience. In short, we apply these elements:

  • Meetings with a 90 minutes duration;
  • Zoom as our online meeting tool, chosen for its wide adoption; 
  • Group size ranging from 3 to 8 maximum, establishing a comfortable environment for everyone to participate;
  •  A facilitator for the experience, provided by our team.

During the programs, we promote several activities, such as watching music videos, sharing listening selections and favorite performers, singing-along using lyrics provided on the screen, and participating in discussions of thoughts and memories inspired by the shared songs.

For the pilot sessions, we outreached participants using both email and telephone. We sent reminders through email before the workshops and after each meeting, we also thanked each participant and requested their feedback.

4) Sounds of Music Workshop Toolkit

Sounds of Music Workshop Toolkit is a do-it-yourself guide created to assist anyone interested in replicating the Sounds of Music program and shaping it for a specific set of participants. As this is our last deliverable, it is still under development and should be launched by June.

The deliverables were developed according to the schedule below:

Sounds of Music Workflow Chart

Sounds of Music Work Schedule 

As illustrated by the Gantt chart, our project management followed an agile methodology. We broke the project into several phases in which we constantly involved the collaboration of other stakeholders, searching for continuous improvement at every stage. We used Trello, Slack, and Google Drive as our main tools for project management, which allowed us to have a solid base of communication from beginning to end. We also had weekly meetings every Monday and Wednesday, which enabled us to maintain the momentum of the project.


Our primary feedback came from the Sounds of Music pre-pilot and pilot sessions. During the pre-pilot session, we rolled out our website in front of a live, synchronous, virtual audience joining us from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, we provided a music enrichment experience lasting about an hour. We had approximately eight audience members, ranging in age from 75 to 92. Our audience proceeded to critique our website, asked us questions about our premise, and offered feedback about various aspects of the musical enrichment program. Their feedback was invaluable in making our ninety-minute pilot session a success.

Some members of our audience suggested that our program lacked spontaneity, while others felt that we needed more structure and better continuity between songs. We learned from our pre-pilot program that we needed to achieve a more profound understanding of our target audience. Ultimately, this resulted in the complete restructuring of our pilot experience. We sought out and found a facilitator and mentor in Jeremy Deliotte, who typically works with veterans in the capacity of providing music therapy and enrichment.

With Jeremy’s assistance and our audience’s feedback, we decided to ensure that anyone could request any song, at any time. During our pilot session, a slightly smaller group gathered. After we all introduced ourselves, Jeremy proceeded to ask each participant a variation of the questions, “What music has been on your mind? What songs have you been thinking about lately? Have you heard anything recently that has moved you?” These questions and queries like them yielded fruitful answers, with each participant taking time to give it a moment’s thought before some song or another would come to mind, at which point we would source the song via YouTube and share it through Zoom.  

The pilot program was a fantastic success. Gennie Green said to us, “Music has so much power,” when she was describing the emotions evoked by the songs we had listened to together. She added later, “Everything has a rhythm to it,” citing our heartbeat as a fundamental example of the rhythm that connects us to one another. One of the songs we listened to was Tony Bennet’s “Once Upon a Time,” which was the first song Madeline Lovallo had danced to with her husband at her wedding, more than fifty years prior. Later, in a private call to Caitlin, she confessed that she “was transported back to the day of her wedding,” when she heard the song. The transformative, transportive power of music is simply remarkable, despite the fact that listening to music has largely become a solitary endeavor, both with the advent of headphones and the onset of COVID-19-related restrictions on gathering and the unique and pressing danger posed to the elderly.

We sought to change this solitary activity into one that was shared, as music has been through most of human history. Music was intended to be shared, and our pilot program was a vibrant example of how and why music should be shared. Every participant reported hearing a song they hadn’t heard before – music from an era or location that had previously passed under their radar.

We learned through user feedback that the most single fundamental part of any experiential music enrichment program such as our own is agency – the freedom of the participants to choose which songs to listen to next, and the ability to have a voice in order to request songs that moved them on a personal, emotional, or spiritual level. We learned from our pre-pilot that assuming which songs participants might wish to listen to, and coming prepared with a playlist, was in error. Though some structure is needed, and can be provided by a skilled facilitator such as Jeremy, most of the program’s time should be spent in organic conversation and honoring spontaneous requests for songs.

The pilot program was a success because we loosened our structure and gave our participants more agency, freedom, and power of choice. The musical experience is one of the most dynamic aspects of the Sounds of Music program. It can be easily reproduced with any small group.

We also received feedback from our colleagues during the dress rehearsal for the Showcase, which we incorporated into our presentation. The presentation, like the website, went through many iterations, small tweaks, edits, and revisions until they were perfected. It is also noteworthy that our website received a total of 395 views from 36 unique visitors, indicating that the majority of our visitors browsed around through several pages on our website.

The website evolved rather organically. Though we did not solicit feedback on our website outside of the pre-pilot session, it went through dozens of versions, each with the goal of making the website more comprehensive, more aesthetically pleasing, and above all, more accessible. Early on, we installed an accessibility toolbar, which toggles various combinations of high-contrast, grayscale, and large-text modes. The website also hosts a version of our Accessibility Toolkit, which is designed as a portable, adaptable, dynamic resource for accessibility tools that help mitigate barriers to access presented by physical, visual, and/or auditory disabilities.

Looking back, we might have solicited feedback from individuals well-versed in web design. We could have also reached out to individuals in the disabled community for the purpose of tweaking and expanding upon the Accessibility Toolkit.

Continuation/Future of the Project/Sustainability

Our project is now independent. While we may continue to tweak it, we achieved our goals.  Our website provides a project description, information about internet access and Zoom sessions, opportunities to explore assistive devices, latency issues, readings about the role of music in human life, and more. It frames an online, interactive music program for people who are isolated from opportunities for social interaction. Our concept is available to anyone who is inspired to implement it, and it has the flexibility to accommodate specific situations and interests. For example, a program designed to connect isolated members to their church community might be built around sharing favorite hymns. Elderly immigrants from a specific geographic area might experience the awakening of memories from sharing songs that were once part of their lives. After visiting our website, a family member might be inclined to organize an interactive musical reunion for elderly siblings and intimate friends. Revisiting once familiar music online together may rekindle long-forgotten memories and inspire reflection, laughter, and even a sing-along. While the effects of such online participation may prove to be therapeutically beneficial, our basic goal is simply to provide an opportunity for social, recreational, and musical connections.  

We offer links to other, more formally structured online music programs, but we have chosen to keep ours flexible.  For our  “pilot,” we restructured our program plan and included an experienced music program “facilitator” to be our host.  Despite its success, we have not stipulated that choice for everyone nor have we suggested that interested parties follow a set program protocol. We leave these considerations open to be worked out depending on the individual program. Although the musical options for our recent pilot seemed almost limitless, they were guided by a professional who ensured that the underlying dynamic did not flag, and that everyone who attended was acknowledged and felt welcome to contribute and participate. 

Our future music program has an outstanding problem: Will it continue, and how will it be mentored? We have presented the program concept for people to study and implement as they see fit. Yet, we discovered that our program is more successful with an experienced guide who makes sure the meeting is inclusive and everyone has an opportunity to participate. This area requires additional discussion and thought: inclusivity and participation are at the heart of our efforts. Jeremy Deliotte, our mentor, and the host of our second program, is impressed by the program’s dynamics. He thinks it might catch on very rapidly. Yet he also believes that when Sounds of Music offers a program, it needs a shepherd, a facilitator. How can we take responsibility for making such a program possible? And how can we not make it possible when it has such potential?

Several avenues are open for further exploration, including:

1) If Jeremy were interested in hosting such a program, or training additional hosts, we could seek funding for its continuation while it is attached to the GC Academic Commons. We would only need to finance the time and expenses for an experienced practitioner to guide the operation of the interactive music program. Such a concept might provide opportunities for student volunteers and interns as well. One of us (or a student in Digital Humanities) could maintain the website and the toolkit.

2) The Digital Humanities program already has an area devoted to Storytelling. Our program encourages spontaneous musical storytelling that might be understood as an incredibly rich, and perhaps untapped, source for storytelling archives development. How these areas might find compatibility and resonance is worth exploring.  

3) We have initiated searches for possible links with existing programs and institutions, but we looked into this area mainly for its future potential. We may discover valuable connections as we probe more deeply. For example, Dorot, a social services organization on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, offers a large collection of free, online programs and activities, many of which are aimed at the elderly. We might make connections with their music programs as well as to their legacy explorations (adding a musical component, enabling web searching). Several rehabilitation centers expressed interest in our program but could not guarantee the reliability of the Wifi connectivity for their clients.  One new residential rehab with top-of-the-line internet connectivity invited us to return in a few months. While its equipment was excellent, solutions for scheduling individuals for Zoom sessions and the concomitant details involved in enabling individuals to participate were still being worked out.  

4) What types of outreach can we develop to locate and connect individuals who are isolated?  And how can we help establish reliable online connectivity for them? From word-of-mouth connections made by family members and caregivers to suggestions from community programs, and potential media links, this area is wide-open for exploration. Certain areas of our project, such as the assistive technology toolkit, can be of immediate assistance: the portable toolkit can be copied, shared, and utilized. It is more difficult to package the concepts behind the interactive program. How do we balance the sensitivity and consideration that must be involved in gathering people who have been isolated and may have little or no experience in virtual interactivity with our interest in sharing the potential benefits of our program with them?  

5) Lack of internet access and the unreliability of internet connections are among the greatest drawbacks of our present program. Given the continuous acceleration of online connectivity, there is good reason to believe that connection and accessibility will continue to improve and more and more people will gain access to the internet. For assistance in this area, we might explore service organizations, charitable foundations, and insurance companies. If music and social interaction promote health and welfare, certain companies may find it financially beneficial to contribute to the promotion of such issues.   

We are not prepared to launch our program into the wide open waves of social media, nor are we convinced that it should be presented as a free-floating entity. We are prepared to create links to areas that already have an invested interest and sensitivity to helping individuals gain access to the internet and overcome some of the difficulties of limited mobility and isolation by sharing music, memories, and new interests via online participation.   

With each day, how music and human life interact and what this relationship means receives additional recognition, investigation, exploration, and celebration. Our project attempts to open doors to these physical, emotional, and intellectual benefits as people celebrate life through sharing music.

Sounds of Music Group Project Update April 28th, 2022

We changed the theme of the website in order to streamline the user’s experience when navigating the site. We are still at work on a few of our webpages, and have one or two additional blog posts lined up, but the website is mostly complete.

However, we would like to acknowledge at this point that any work, whether it is of art or otherwise, is never finished, merely abandoned. This popular adage, often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, holds true for our website as well. With proper funding and adequate time, we would expand our website, our toolkits, and our blog further.

We are proud of what we accomplished this semester thus far. 

Raquel has been finalizing the Accessibility Toolkit, creating an accessible PDF version of it for distribution, and preparing to present our project. 

Caitlin has been making final website edits, and Felicity has been expanding the Latency Toolkit and editing it for ease of use. She has offered a blog post with suggested reading on topics relating to music and emotion, the meaning of music, and the language of music, that might interest people attracted to the idea of music participation in our Sounds of Music program.   

As our pilot program approaches, we remain excited about this project. We are confident that our work in introducing a virtual, synchronous music enrichment experience can be recreated in most public or private settings, and that others can learn from both our failures and our successes in our own attempts. We also hope that our Accessibility Toolkit can be useful to those who have disabilities and experience difficulties accessing content on the web, as well as their caregivers and families.

As we approach the dress rehearsal and launch day, we will be supporting Raquel in her efforts to practice and perfect the presentation. We will be crafting a narrative that will explain the problem of social isolation, especially amongst senior citizens, the homebound, and the disabled. We will offer the Sounds of Music not as a solution, but as an outreach and a start to solving the conundrum we face as we enter a post-pandemic world. 

Zoom has become more than a tool for virtual meetings; it has become a forum for discourse, discussion, learning, family connections, and more. It connects us to one another, and brings us into each other’s homes. As we enter the ‘new normal,’ we will continue to use Zoom as a platform for our pilot program. Zoom has the capacity to forge new friendships, reinforce existing ones, and create connections between people in different parts of the NYC metropolitan area and beyond.  

We hope that the Digital Humanities will be a useful means of connecting those who would otherwise remain isolated and lonely. We wish to reach an audience that is often overlooked by DH as a field, and bring elderly folks who have limited computer literacy into the technological fold. 

We have a meeting scheduled on Monday to complete our plans for our pilot program and to practice our presentation. 

Sounds of Music Group Project Update April 14th, 2022

 On Monday, we completed our manifesto, the text of which is pasted below:

Sounds of Music Manifesto

Introduction & Origins

 Music is human. Of this much, we are certain.

The sounds of music have been with us for millennia. Our ability to create music, to find harmony where once there had been discord, remains a defining factor of our humanity. Music is found in every culture across the globe.

Throughout human history, music has evolved and changed. For much of its history, music was ephemeral. It was played, and with the fading of the final note, it lived on only in memory. With the advent of recording technology, a rendition of a song could be repeated again and again. In the digital age, music has taken on a different, more portable life. Often, it has become a solo, individual experience.

 We seek to revive the communal aspect of listening to music. The connections and bonds formed by sharing music together endure long after the last note sounds. We seek to create a virtual space where music can be enjoyed and examined for its capacity to produce great emotional outpourings of joy, sorrow, grief, and ultimately, catharsis.

 Sounds of Music takes its name from The Sound of Music, a 1959 Broadway musical by Richard Rodgers, composer, and Oscar Hammerstein II, lyricist. The story was loosely based on a memoir about the von Trapps, a large family that acquired a substantial reputation for singing in their native Austria before they fled the country in 1938. As a family unit, they achieved immense popularity in the United States through concert tours and recordings, and eventually, they settled permanently in Vermont. The 1965 movie of the same name, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, won five Oscars. Among the many tunes from the show that became popular standards are “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “You Are Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Edelweiss,” “Do, Re, Mi,” and “My Favorite Things.”

The sounds of music mean, to us, the human voice, every instrument capable of creating music, and synthetic musical instruments. We have focused on the former two of these three.

 Our Goals

Music is the instrument through which we are inviting members of our community to come together and form lasting, meaningful connections. Our primary target audience has consisted of elderly individuals, a population that is vulnerable to becoming isolated and lonely.

 The Sounds of Music is very much about people. People have informed every part of our user-centric design, from our website to our pilot programs to our Accessibility Toolkits. We have defined the Sounds of Music by our target users amongst the elderly population, and designed with the extreme user in mind.

We are committed to making the Sounds of Music accessible to all who might wish to partake in our music enrichment program. Music should be for everyone and anyone who wishes to listen, and we wish for our communal experience to be an uplifting, joyous one.

We believe in creating a safe, inclusive space for those who enjoy music to discuss memories that arise, connections that present themselves, and other elements of the musical experience.

We wish for our audience to come away from the pilot program smiling, feeling connected, and engaged. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, elderly individuals have not experienced the type of connections that they once enjoyed freely and without concern for their health.

We seek to remedy this by providing an online, virtual environment that is both a safe space for sharing music and memories, as well as a community-building experience during which new friendships can be formed and maintained.

Our ultimate goal is to create an online community through which the sounds of music foster new friendships and fresh perspectives. We seek to make this experience available to all who wish to partake in it. We also wish for this experience to be both customizable and easily duplicated in almost any setting, both private or public. 


During our Monday meeting, we also discussed the possibility of meeting again with Jeremy, a Music for Veterans facilitator who has consulted with us once before. We plan to meet with him on Friday afternoon in order to discuss our plan for the pilot program that will take place on April 25th. 

On Wednesday, we presented our progress thus far and received feedback, including but not limited to:

  • “Love the logo!” – Faihaa Khan
  • Emphasize significance in slide 2: not many DH projects have focused on elderly populations. This is one of the first. (Bret)
  • It might be worthwhile to explain why you chose zoom as the platform: ubiquity, wide adoption, etc. (Bret)
  • “I like the screenshot from the workshop. Gives a good sense of also the people connection in the project!” – Benjamin M.
  • Maybe main point: Accessibility is a major focus of our project. It has to be when serving a homebound, elderly population (Bret).

In the past few weeks, Felicity reached out to three different nursing homes and facilities, who were relatively eager to learn more, but we decided not to pursue this avenue of outreach. These facilities were Inspīr Senior Living, Terence Cardinal Cooke Harlem Nursing Home, and Amsterdam Nursing Home. 

We are looking forward to experiencing the pilot program with a more diverse group of participants, one of whom is an elderly artist friend of Caitlin’s who is well-known in the Queens artistic community. We hope that it will go smoothly, and be a positive experience for all involved. 

Sounds of Music Group Project Update April 7th, 2022

The Sounds of Music group achieved tremendous progress during this week.

Monday Meeting Minutes

On Monday, April 4th, 2022, we had a productive meeting, during which we discussed:

  • Whether or not we were meeting our milestones. We concluded that we are indeed, and that all in all, we only had to push back a few deadlines, most recently of a Sounds of Music manifesto.
  • We spoke a bit more about redesigning our pilot, and who to invite. We are finalizing our participant list. 
  • We explored the idea of bringing Jeremy on as a facilitator.
  • We are still debating what to do with our allotted 200 dollars, once it comes through.
  • We also did a brief sing-along of “Down in the Valley,” with Felicity playing the piano.
  • We discussed what music we’d been listening to as of late. Caitlin brought up “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” by the Platters, a song that was popular the year her mother was born, and had flown into her radar during a family genealogy project.

Wednesday Meeting Minutes

We worked on the Sounds of Music Manifesto, but were unable to complete it in one session. This is on our agenda for next Monday’s meeting. 

Tasks Accomplished & To Complete

Caitlin worked on the website, specifically the Accessibility Toolkit. 

Raquel completed the Accessibility Toolkit. Caitlin will work on transferring the remainder of it to the website in the coming week.

Raquel has been working on creating an accessible PDF that will read each slide to the viewer. She will also develop the CSV (version of the Excel document that has been storing our preliminary data and primary resources).

Felicity will be working on the format for the music program, as well as proofreading and suggesting edits to the website. Caitlin will work on implementing these edits. 

Gantt Chart Sounds of Music

Our Gantt Chart



Sounds of Music Group Project Update March 31st, 2022

The original target for the Sounds of Music proposal was a population of elderly individuals who or may not be handicapped, who are probably stuck at home, and who have felt the strains of isolation, whether 70 or 80, or 90.

We have expanded our target audience, but are still focused on targeting an elderly population. We have designed for accessibility. Our thinking has been informed by the hypothetical ‘extreme user’ with possible disabilities that might prevent them from accessing our program.

So far, we’ve made remarkable progress on the website, our accessibility toolkits, our pre-pilot program, and redesigning a future pilot program based on feedback gathered during our pre-pilot.

Meeting Minutes

During our meeting on Wednesday, March 31st, we discussed possible program redesigns for our pilot program, and how to integrate the feedback we had gotten in our pre-pilot program.

We spoke about the potential of participants taking a questionnaire in advance of a pilot program. Felicity expressed the legitimate concern that each button that needs to be pressed poses a barrier to access and an interruption to our program. With each additional step, we lose the interest of potential participants.

We continued to discuss our program itinerary and decided to provide context about each song before we play it, in order to stimulate engagement with the music and evoke memories of times gone by. In this vein, we wish to offer narrative guidance for our audience.

One of our primary goals is to motivate our audience to respond to the music, so it’s important to select music that will resonate with them.

We also spoke about how we wanted to guide discussion in such a way that memories arise organically.

We discussed also what kind of discussion we wished to promote amongst our pilot audience in order to spur memories and emotional reactions in a fluid, natural manner. We decided that our roles were as curators of music, and facilitators of conversation – our job was more to gently guide rather than to directly influence the flow of discussion.

We wanted to strike a balance between providing too much direction, versus not enough guidance for a group of people who may or may not know each other. We wanted to avoid awkward silences, but allow for productive, thoughtful silences.

Our wish is to create a friendly and welcoming environment. It’s our job to create an ambiance of warmth and congeniality.

More Thoughts

For an audience we don’t know, we must be quite general.  If we get an idea of something the group responds to, we can respond in kind.

For other occasions, it would be easy to create a specific program, one that centered around:

  • A Brazilian Samba,
  • Italian songs everyone knows and loves,
  • Songs for month of April, or to celebrate spring,
  • Celebrating life coming back to NYC,
  • The opening of the Baseball Season,
  • Programs centered around specific figures, like “Old Blue Eyes,”
  • And hundreds more possibilities…

Next Steps

We decided to hold a pilot program on Monday, April 25th, at 2 PM. We agreed on the following abbreviated schedule:


Participants have the opportunity to tell us and each other a little about themselves, and to introduce themselves, their names, and whatever else springs to mind.

Part 1: Warm Up

In order to get people ‘warmed up,’ we’ll start with a singalong, perhaps of Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World,” or another tune that everyone knows.

Part 2: Connections

We’ll share tunes that facilitate a discussion about personal connections and associations that might arise from the music. Songs that seemed to resonate in our pre-pilot included Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”

Part 3: The Role of Performance

We’ll them share songs that facilitate discussion about the role of performance on musical experiences. A possible activity is the compassion of two versions of the same or similar songs that explore different forms of performances / visual experiences.

Part 4: Singalong with Live Music

We should finish our session with a singalong song or two, with Felicity playing the piano. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” would be a wonderful stopping point, and leave the audience feeling good, thus ending on a high note.


We have hit the vast majority of our major milestones thus far, and have set new milestones as we have completed tasks earlier than anticipated. Our project has been evolving as we’ve worked on it. The Sounds of Music has come to a stage where it is developing quite organically in two twin directions – that of outreach to the general public in the form of our website, which includes a working model of our latency toolkit, and the start of our accessibility toolkit, as well as a blog where we have begun to post related resources; and our pre-pilot and pilot programs, which have informed our thinking about our website as well as how to reach our target audience.

In the next week, we will continue to work on creating a program guideline for us to follow when facilitating our pilot program. In time, it is possible that this will evolve into a template for others to recreate their own music enrichment programs, both in public and private settings, amongst friends, and in a variety of other contexts and settings.

This week, Raquel hopes to finish the accessible version of our Accessibility Toolkit. Once it is converted into PDF form and finalized, Caitlin will go about populating the website will the remainder of the information. Felicity will continue to find songs for our pilot program, as well as research them to provide context and lend narrative structure to our discussion.

Sounds of Music Group Project Update 3/24

The Sounds of Music group has made great progress on our website, our latency toolkit, and our accessibility toolkits, as well as our pre-pilot program, which we launched on Monday, March 21st, 2022 in order to solicit feedback on relevant areas of our pilot program. 

As the week wears on, we will be focusing on taking what we learned from our pre-pilot program and applying it to a new, revamped pilot program. 


The website is still a work-in-progress, but we have made significant progress on fleshing it out and filling it with relevant information.

We have an accessibility toolbar on the leftmost side of the screen. 

Latency Toolkit:

The latency toolkit is also very much a work in progress. Curation is our main concern in this regard. We will be adding to it as our research continues, as well as sorting it by a logical navigational scheme. 

Accessibility Toolkit(s):

These toolkits have been compiled on Google Sheets, and need to be added to the website. Raquel is working on creating a downloadable version of the toolkits in PDF format. Again, curation is an issue, but we decided as a team that we will provide information and metadata about each source, in order to facilitate seamless navigation and ease of use. 

Pre-Pilot Program:

We held a pilot program with eight participants, six of whom ranged in age from 82-92.  One of the younger women was a caregiver for a 93-year-old man, and another, a woman in her seventies, has been through multiple surgeries, chemo, and radiation in the last few years, and is relying on a walker at the present time. Two were well over ninety, and both had serious hearing problems and more recent visual difficulties. Others were in their eighties, competent, intelligent people who were beginning to cope with problems of old age while simultaneously affected by the Covid isolation.

We received useful, substantial criticism, and everyone was positive. People found the project valuable and in need of attention for various reasons:

  •  It opens roads for further research as people age and populations grow (including a suggestion that we include discussion on research regarding isolation, aging, handicap, etc.).
  • It is a terrific and timely idea with opportunities for expansion in many directions.
  • It needs structure and continuity.
  • It needs to focus on what elderly people will respond to – i.e., music they know and love.
  • It requires a knowledge of the population we will serve, and we need to focus on those people and their interests.
  • We should pick a genre and not float around with so many different possibilities.
  • We provided too many suggestions. Unable to take it all in.
  • The program needs a narrative.
  • Storytelling set to music is important. When you’re able to “connect” to what’s being played, uneducated music brains are taken to a place to connect with the song/music at a deeper level.
  • There’s no better cure for the heart and mind than singing along to what one can relate to.
  • The kinks need to be worked out, but the idea is brilliant.

Tasks for the Following Week:

  • Create, design, and curate a new, updated Sounds of Music pilot program based on feedback gathered from the attendees of our pre-pilot program (Felicity & Raquel)
  • Create and curate an updated collection of musical selections for use in the pilot with special attention to length, video content, and potential connections with our participants (Felicity & Caitlin)
  • Continue to develop our visual identity on the website (All)
  • Continue to transfer Accessibility Toolkits onto the website (Caitlin)
  • Continue to create a downloadable PDF version of the Accessibility Toolkit(s) (Raquel)
  • Write and create a new blog post for the website: a list of Related Resources of online musical enrichment programs and activities that we have found helpful (Caitlin)

Sounds of Music Website

“We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” – Stevie Wonder

Dearest Colleagues,

You will find the link to our webpage here.

I am excited to debut it. It is currently public, but not yet visible to search engines, a visibility status I intend on changing once our prototype draws nearer to completion.

Some things to turn your attention to:

  • There is an accessibility toolbar on the leftmost side of the screen. It allows you to toggle through a combination of high-contrast, grayscale, and/or large-font modes.
  • Our Latency toolkit is far more populated than our Accessibility Toolkit, the latter of which is still very much a page in construction.
  • We have an ‘About’ page and a ‘Contributors’ page, which may or may not be combined as the semester progresses. Your thoughts on this are welcome, colleagues.
  • We have a blog! There are currently only two entries, but for those of you who love it when casual Star Trek references are successfully slipped into serious work, please check out the latest blog post.
  • We are still grappling with our visual identity, and many of the images are placeholders. Thoughts on which images resonate most with you are also appreciated.

Thank you all in advance for checking out website-in-progress! Please do note that it is very much a work in progress. It is a prototype, one that is ever-evolving as our research narrows and expands by degrees, and takes us in exciting new directions. We trust you will be both kind and honest in your critique of our website as it stands today, should you choose to offer us feedback – a gesture which would be very much appreciated by all of us on the Sounds of Music team.

I encourage you to revisit our website in the coming weeks, as I believe the Accessibility Toolkit might be of interest and import to most of your projects.

Cordially Yours,

Caitlin Cacciatore

Sounds of Music Technical Coordinator’s Log, Week of March 14th, 2022

If change is inevitable, predictable, beneficial; doesn’t logic demand that you be a part of it? (Captain James T. Kirk, speaking to Spock in the Star Trek: TOS episode Mirror, Mirror)


I confess that when I was writing out “Technical Coordinator’s Log,” I almost put Stardate instead of Week. This is a sure sign that the technical coordinator has been watching too much Star Trek.


As we move toward the mid-point of the semester, I have been considering how best to build, expand, and modify the website. The platform is up and running through WordPress, via the CUNY Academic Commons. There is a contact page; one of multiple menu options on the top toolbar. There is a blog, a homepage, and a contributor’s page.


None of the more mundane aspects of website building are causing me much trouble at the moment, as I am intimately familiar with WordPress’ suite of tools. I’ve been running my own author’s blog since 2016 on WordPress, and have acquired skills throughout the past six years which have served me well in this project.


What truly concerns me is how to make our website more accessible. Our core values include accessibility for all, and as someone with a disability, I am very sensitive to the needs of those who also have disabilities, no matter the form they take or the age at which they were acquired. I am still struggling to make the text-to-speech function work on WordPress, and hope to iron that out within the next week.


I have also been playing with the font size, in order to make the site more accessible to the visually impaired without sacrificing aesthetics or clarity. Additionally, I have already installed a toolbar that sits at the left side of the screen, allowing users to toggle between a combination of high-contrast, grey-scale, and large-font modes.


I have been exploring other avenues of making our website more accessible and have compiled a list of websites that will be helpful in making it so.


Our audience consists largely of homebound, elderly individuals, so I also wish to make our website simple to navigate and easy to use. I wish to suggest a logical path for the journey the user could potentially take, in exploring the website.


I will also be researching websites that are highly rated in terms of accessibility, to study them for inspiration.


I confess also that I never noticed issues of accessibility until I, myself, became disabled. I cannot discern how much of this is due to the fact that I acquired my disability as a pre-teen, and how much can be attributed to the general lack of awareness of accessibility problems and solutions on behalf of the able-bodied and non-disabled population. Either way, I now notice elements on all levels of infrastructure – both in the physical and the digital world – that are deeply problematic. I always return to the example of the MTA’s new, ‘modern,’ leaning bars, which are hostile to the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless. Only the latter of these populations were being directly targeted, yet the leaning bars acted to the detriment of many more citizens.


What might be a mere inconvenience to some can become an insurmountable barrier to others. Inaccessible subway stations with levels and levels of stairs might not do much more than briefly wind the able-bodied, but to a mother with a stroller, or a person in a wheelchair, it takes the ‘public’ out of public transportation.


We all struggle in our own ways. It is part of the human experience. But how can we be fully human, if all of us are not given a fair chance to overcome those struggles? How can we proclaim equality for all, when our neighbors and friends and family members and fellow human beings must face barriers that can be, at times, insurmountable – barriers we take for granted, and maybe grumble about; barriers we should be rethinking and re-envisioning and redesigning.


Change is inevitable, absolutely, and is predictable to a certain degree, but it’s up to us to ensure it is beneficial for all of us – that every adult might benefit, and that every child might grow up in a brighter future. It is not mere logic that demands this; it is something stronger – empathy. It is only through our empathy for all people that we, too, are rendered fully, completely, vibrantly human. I want to be part of a world where walls are torn down, and barriers are dismantled, piece by piece, so that we may, all of us, emerge, triumphant, into a better future.


Ultimately, I want our website to reflect that vision.

Sounds of Music: Outreach and Social Media Plan

General Goals

The Sounds of Music pilot program seeks to forge connections through music between elderly, homebound individuals in the NYC metropolitan area. 

The Sounds of Music Accessibility Toolkit and Workshop are being constructed with the goal of facilitating the creation of music enrichment programs in schools, daycares, nursing homes, permanent care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, prisons, hospitals, and other public and private settings.*

* We do not claim in any way, shape, or form to be experts in the field of musicology, music therapy, music medicine, or cognitive behavioral therapy. We merely wish to provide a framework for the creation of music enrichment experiences for a wide variety of populations and audiences. We expect that institutional settings will implement their own best practices in the creation of any program they generate and organize for their patrons to enjoy. 


Our audience is two-fold. We hope to reach elderly, homebound, and handicapped populations with our pilot program. With our workshop and toolkit, we wish to reach out to different institutions in order to provide a method for anyone to create music enrichment programs for a wide variety of populations. 

Our Values/Voice

Music connects people on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Music is deeply, fundamentally human. We believe that music has the ability to move people, both literally and metaphorically. Music connects us to our community and cultural roots, and empowers individuals who create it and listen to it. The bond formed between the musician and the listener is a vital component of what makes a live, synchronous music experience so compelling. 

We believe that music can connect people in new, exciting ways. We wish to bring this form of connectivity to homebound, elderly populations in the NYC metropolitan area in an accessible, easy-to-navigate manner. 

Our values are reflected both on our website and in our program. We believe in accessibility for all, and have created an accessible website that allows users to toggle between high-contrast, grey-scale, and large-font modes. We are investing time in researching how to make our pilot program accessible to those with visual, auditory, or motor-skill impairments. 

Our values are self-evident in our workshop and toolkit, which provides accessibility resources for anyone creating a music enrichment program. We will also include troubleshooting and latency solutions.

Website and Logo

The Sounds of Music Website

Sounds of Music Logo

Social Media Strategies

We plan on creating a Facebook page for our project, where we will disseminate the information we find and the research we have done. 

We plan to update our Facebook once a week for the duration of the project. Facebook will serve as a platform for building our audience, creating new content related to the Sounds of Music, and making important public announcements. 

Communication Strategies

We wish to establish contact with community groups for the elderly, including but not limited to organizations that work with the elderly and the disabled, libraries, and nursing homes. 

We will also keep in touch with and expand our audience through digital flyers and content that will be shared through social media. 

We plan on creating a LinkTree to post to our website and social media platforms in order to direct potential audience members to our social media presence. 

We also plan on disseminating materials about our project on LinkedIn. Additionally, we anticipate performing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on our website and each post therein.

Community Initiatives

In addition to updating and maintaining our webpage and or Facebook profile, we plan to explore a word-of-mouth strategy. We plan to start that by exploring three potential links to organizations that work with elderly populations:

Sounds of Music Data Management Plan

  1. What are the types of data that may be produced as part of this project?
  • We will generate the following forms of data through research, browsing existing datasets, and amassing data about:
    • Accessibility data, as it pertains to live, synchronous music enrichment programs:
      • How to Use Zoom: A Beginner’s Guide.
      • How to Be Unafraid of Online Activities.
      • Equipment and Assistive Technologies to Help Individuals with Specific Disabilities and Handicaps:
        • Equipment and assistive technologies designed for the visually impaired and blind.
        • Equipment and assistive technologies designed for the deaf and hard of hearing.
        • Equipment and assistive technologies designed for those who are paraplegics or quadriplegics.
        • Equipment and assistive technologies designed for those who experience muscle weakness or another condition that hinders their ability to perform delicate and/or manual tasks.
        • How voice assistant technologies can be used or modified to provide more extensive assistance to those for whom accessibility is a concern.
      • Data about latency, as it pertains to live, synchronous music enrichment programs:
        • How to tackle the issue of latency during Zoom and other virtual meetings.
        • How to overcome the problem of real-time, synchronous communication.
      • Data about trouble-shooting, as it pertains to live, synchronous music enrichment programs.


  • We will be generating survey data on whether or not the Sounds of Music pilot program enriches the lives of our participants.


  • We will be using Google Docs, Google Sheets, which will eventually be migrated to more stable, non-proprietary forms such as PDF and .csv.


  • Our greatest concern regarding the data is obsolescence. We fear that in light of the rate of advancement of assistive technologies, our data will quickly become obsolete.


  • Our data will largely take the form of text and hyperlinks, as well as APA citations, including the date the original information was accessed.


  1. What standards will you be using for data collection, documentation, description, and metadata?


We will collect data from consulting experts in the field of Disability Studies, as well as aggregate our research in order to find relevant information about assistive technologies and accessibility resources.

We will be working from several files, sorted by category, as well as a Google Sheets document that has several tabs to organize our data.

We will name files based on content. All files will be accompanied by a description of their content at the top of any document or file we produce.


  1. What steps will you take to protect your or your participant’s security, privacy/confidentiality, intellectual property, or other rights? (Check current university policies for requirements.)


We will be protecting our participant’s security, privacy, and other rights by anonymizing data collected about them, using fabricated, fictitious names if and when they are referenced.

We will be collecting data on whether or not the Sounds of Music pilot program enriches and enhances the lives of those we are reaching out to, and will be refraining from collecting more than the most general and cursory of information about their personal lives, such as their age.


  1. If you allow others to reuse your data, how will the data be accessed and shared?


Our data will be shared on a public-facing, freely available website run via WordPress on the CUNY Commons. It will also be made available in PDF format from May 2022 onwards.

We hope to reach schools, daycares, nursing homes, permanent care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, prisons, hospitals, and other public and private institutions. It is our fondest hope that our Sounds of Music workshop will facilitate the creation of a host of musical enrichment experiences for diverse audiences. We hope that this data can be used and updated in the near or further future.

Any Internet-connected device with a web browser should be able to access our data.


  1. How will the data be archived for preservation and long-term access?


We plan to keep the data accessible indefinitely, or so long as it remains relevant.

We have discussed the longevity of our data, and have decided that we will entrust data management to a partner institution or university. We are still in search of said partner.

We shall be converting our raw data to .csv files, as well as two PDF versions – one in a standard font, another for the visually impaired.