Communicating with music

Robert Codio  (pronounced Ro-bear) the new music specialist at The Greens at Cannondale, in Wilton, brings his performance and therapeutic  skills, as well as an endearing personality to Greens residents and their families.  He recently replaced the very popular Pat Spencer, who has moved to Abu Dhabi to join his wife, who is now teaching English there.

Music has always been essential at this assisted living residence. “Long before research proved that music stimulates the memory, increases energy and decreases  agitation , we observed that familiar songs awaken the unconscious. People who may rarely speak will start singing the words when they hear a favorite tune,” said Sue Herbst, director of the Evergreen Program,  a full-time residence for men and women with severe memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s.

Codio epitomizes a youthfully fresh approach to music,  playing  favorite ballads and show tunes of the 40’s and 50’s at mealtimes,  jazzing it up at special  concerts, singing along with residents during cocktails,  and, through programs like Music  & Movement,  transforming exercise to entertainment.  He has a repertoire of musical games and music appreciation sessions, all of which feed the appetite for musical knowledge, a definite emphasis  at The Greens.

After barely a month, Codio  says he feels part of The Greens family.

“Residents here truly love music and their response to my playing is so rewarding. Music requires a personal touch. I’m getting to know people’s favorite songs and the stories  behind them, “ he said. “Even with severe memory problems, the lyrics of songs are remembered, word for word.  This is especially true of music from The Great American Songbook:  Gershwin, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein. When I play a song like Hello Dolly or The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow  there’ll suddenly be a sudden burst of singing. The Way You  Look Tonight, Always, Edelweiss, Singin’ In The Rain, inspire a spontaneous, mini-sing-a-long.”

In fourth grade, Codio started playing the French horn.

“My mother played it at her school. At 6 or 7, I started taking piano lessons. I was in the school band with the French horn, and after I played, a teacher offered to give me free lessons. He was a bass player in the Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra, but he knew everything about all kinds of music. Bob Genualdi. I’ll never forget him. He  showed me what music was really about.  He helped me pass the audition to get into the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra. Then I went to Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, which has a good music program. In addition to the French horn and piano, I played the guitar, and I was a substitute organist for a lot of churches. I was also introduced to music therapy, helping people through music. That’s a big part of what I do at The Greens.”

Codio is also a singer and plans to present lots more sing-a-longs, as well as use percussion instruments to create an Evergreen orchestra . He also will share life stories of composers. His enthusiasm bubbles over.  He is young (23 in July.) He lives in Stratford. He is soft-spoken, gracious, disarmingly polite and cheerful. He enjoys life and loves experimenting with music, learning what people like. There’s always a grateful sprinkle of applause for his romantic rendition of love songs.

“There’s so many songs, I’m overwhelmed. I know the favorites but I say to myself: ‘I  wonder if they’ll like this?’ The thing I love most is sharing music with people, and that’s what I’m doing now.”