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Video: Music can improve your health

By Dawn Fratangelo Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/21/2006 7:36:48 PM ET 2006-11-22T00:36:48

Echoing through these hallways, you can hear it. But those hitting the right notes might surprise you.

This is band camp for the "older" crowd, retirees picking up instruments they played in school or for the very first time.

Eve McGrory played the piano as a girl, but never the clarinet.

"I did stink," she says, "I mean, you know, let's get real!"

McGrory is a member of New Horizons, a group that teaches and inspiresolder folks to play. The idea was launched in 1991 to create a venue for adults to make music. And it's caught on — there are now 6,000 members who form 130 bands in the U.S. and Canada.

When McGrory was in school, girls weren't allowed in the band.

"They just said girls couldn't play instruments," she says, "period." 

Now she's in four bands.

"What emerged was a whole new life for me," says McGrory. "I mean, I go to band camps, I've made a whole new set of friends, and they are really my best friends right now."

And there is something to this. A recent study found older adults who participate in arts programs have better overall health, boosted immune systems, even fewer doctor visits. 

"These people in these art programs, they show true health promotion and prevention effects," says Dr. Gene Cohen with the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities. "You can't ask for much more than that."

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Ed Shahin was going to sell his piano after his wife died. 

"I used to play serenades," he says. "When I lost her to cancer, I couldn't come in this room. I couldn't look at that piano without crying because it was her piano."

Instead, he started taking lessons. In two years he has mastered — among others — "Unchained Melody," the standard he and his wife called "their song."

"[It] keeps me alive," he says. "I believe it keeps me in good health, and it gives a real purpose to my life."

And so they play for that sense of accomplishment, because it's good for them, or like Eve McGrory, to prove that even a girl — can. 

"Look at me now," she says. "I wish those people could see me now."

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